Ventricular tachycardia is a very serious arrhythmia that occurs when abnormal electrical impulses in the heart’s lower chambers increase a person’s heart rate to more than 100 beats per minute. People with ventricular tachycardia typically have an underlying heart condition, such as coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, mitral valve prolapse or valvular heart disease.
Episodes of ventricular tachycardia may last for less than 30 seconds without any symptoms. Longer episodes often lead to ventricular fibrillation (V fib), a life-threatening condition where the lower chambers vibrate instead of pump, cutting off blood flow.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience heart palpitations, chest pains, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath.
How is it diagnosed?
Most often, ventricular tachycardia is diagnosed in a life-threatening situation. Doctors will use manual pulse checks and heart monitoring to determine that you are experiencing an episode. Once a diagnosis has been established, treatment and prevention of future episodes will depend upon identifying the cause of your ventricular tachycardia.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms and detects heart muscle damage.
- Echocardiogram – creates a two-dimensional picture of the cardiovascular system and can also produce an accurate assessment of the velocity of blood and cardiac tissue at any point using pulsed or continuous wave Doppler ultrasound.
- Angiography – is a form of imaging that allows your doctor to view blood flow through your arteries as it happens. By injecting a contrast material (dye) into your blood vessels, your doctor is able to trace the flow of the contrast material using imaging machines. Angiography can be done using X-ray imaging or procedures called magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or computed tomography angiography (CTA).
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How is it treated?
In emergency situations, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation help to restoring blood flow and prevent brain and organ damage.
Depending upon the cause of your ventricular fibrillation episode, your physician may refer you to an electrophysiologist, who can help reduce your risk of future episodes. Treatment options include:
- Cardioversion - takes place under anesthesia. Paddles are placed on the chest and deliver an electrical shock that restores the normal heart rate and rhythm.
- Radiofrequency catheter ablation – is a non-surgical treatment that involves the insertion of a tube or catheter from an artery in the leg to the heart. Doctors then send radiofrequency waves through the catheter to destroy the tissue causing the fast heartbeat.
- Stereotaxis – allows doctors to remotely navigate catheters through a patient’s arteries using magnetic technology, which results in a safer and more precise procedure.
- 3D intracardiac ultrasound – allows doctors to create real-time, three-dimensional images of the left atrium, pulmonary veins and esophagus during ablative procedures, which increases safety and results in more effective treatment.
- Internal cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) – is a surgically implanted device that delivers therapies to treat potentially fatal fast heart rhythms. The ICD continuously monitors the heart rhythm and delivers therapy only when necessary.
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How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?
Advocate Christ Medical Center is a proven leader in the diagnosis and treatment of ventricular tachycardia and other arrhythmias. We are one of the Midwest’s busiest centers when it comes to performing catheter ablations and electrophysiology studies, as well as implanting defibrillator and pacemakers. Patients benefit from state-of-the-art edge minimally invasive technologies, such as Stereotaxis and 3D intracardiac ultrasound, available at only a few Illinois institutions.
Our team is led by some of the most experienced board certified electrophysiologists in the region. Together with cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons, they meet on a monthly basis to develop individualized treatment plans. Patients are guided through diagnosis, treatment and recovery by our clinical nurse coordinator. Our physicians regularly update referring doctors to ensure continuity of care and ongoing communication.
Whether a patient requires medication, a catheter-based procedure or surgical therapy, the doctors at Advocate Christ Medical Center provide compassionate care on the cutting edge.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What causes ventricular tachycardia?
Ventricular tachycardia is usually the result of an underlying heart condition, such as:
What are the symptoms?
Ventricular tachycardia can be characterized by cardiac arrest. Other symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
What are the risk factors?
People who have had previous episodes or heart attacks have a greater risk of experiencing additional episodes. An underlying heart condition can also contribute to a person’s risk.
If any medical treatments are ordered by my doctor, will my insurance cover them?
Depending on the type of coverage, most commercial insurance carriers will pay the major share of the cost. You should always consult your insurance company to determine proper coverage.
Who provides the medical care?
The team at Advocate Christ Medical Center is staffed by specialized electrophysiologists, nurses, and other specialists who have extensive experiencing treating patients with ventricular tachycardia. You will remain under the care of your primary care physician and cardiologist while you are treated by the specialists at Christ Medical Center. To ensure that your physician is kept up-to-date, our team will provide ongoing reports on the progress you have made.
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