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Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) - Pulsating Rhythms

Mike West Nov. 29, 2023 #Hypertension
supraventicular tachycardia disease

Defining Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT):

Supraventricular Tachycardia is a type of abnormal heart rhythm characterized by a rapid heartbeat originating above the heart's ventricles. In SVT, the heart's electrical signals follow abnormal pathways, leading to a faster-than-normal heart rate. This condition can cause episodes of palpitations, dizziness and discomfort, though it is generally not life-threatening.

Causes of Supraventricular Tachycardia:

Several factors can contribute to the development of SVT, often involving disruptions in the heart's electrical system. Common causes include:

Abnormal Pathways:

SVT can occur when there are abnormal electrical pathways in the heart, allowing electrical signals to circulate in a loop, leading to a rapid heartbeat.

Atrial Fibrillation or Flutter:

Conditions like atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter, which involve irregular electrical activity in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart, can trigger SVT.

Heart Disease:

Underlying heart conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart valve disorders, or congenital heart defects, may increase the risk of SVT.


SVT can occur at any age, but it is more common in older adults. Aging can affect the heart's electrical system, increasing the likelihood of irregular rhythms.

Stress and Anxiety:

Emotional stress and anxiety can influence the heart's electrical signals, potentially triggering episodes of SVT in susceptible individuals.

Caffeine and Stimulants:

Consumption of caffeine, nicotine, or certain medications and stimulants may contribute to the development or exacerbation of SVT.

Genetic Factors:

There may be a genetic predisposition to SVT in some cases, with a family history of arrhythmias.

Symptoms of Supraventricular Tachycardia:

The symptoms of SVT can vary in intensity and duration. Some individuals may experience brief and infrequent episodes, while others may have more persistent symptoms. Common symptoms include:


A sensation of rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeat is a hallmark symptom of SVT.

Dizziness or Lightheadedness:

SVT can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to dizziness or lightheadedness.

Chest Discomfort:

Some individuals may experience chest discomfort or mild pain during episodes of SVT.

Shortness of Breath:

Rapid heart rates can lead to difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.


Episodes of SVT can be exhausting, leading to fatigue and weakness.

Fainting (Syncope):

In severe cases, SVT may cause fainting or syncope, particularly if the rapid heartbeat is prolonged.


The palpitations and other symptoms associated with SVT can induce anxiety, further exacerbating the condition.

It's important to note that some individuals with SVT may not experience noticeable symptoms, and the condition may be detected incidentally during medical examinations or diagnostic tests.

Treatments for Supraventricular Tachycardia:

The management of SVT aims to control and prevent episodes, improve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Treatment approaches may vary based on the frequency and severity of episodes and individual health considerations. Common treatment modalities include:

Vagal Maneuvers:

Techniques that stimulate the vagus nerve, such as the Valsalva maneuver (bearing down as if having a bowel movement) or carotid sinus massage, may help terminate certain SVT episodes.


Antiarrhythmic medications may be prescribed to control heart rhythm and prevent episodes of SVT. Common medications include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and antiarrhythmic drugs.


In some cases, a healthcare provider may perform cardioversion, a procedure involving the delivery of electrical shocks to the heart to restore a normal rhythm.

Catheter Ablation:

Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure where a thin tube (catheter) is threaded through blood vessels to the heart. During this procedure, abnormal pathways causing SVT are targeted and destroyed using radiofrequency energy.

Implantable Devices:

Implantable devices such as pacemakers or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) may be recommended in certain cases to regulate heart rhythm or provide electrical shocks to terminate abnormal rhythms.

Lifestyle Modifications:

Lifestyle changes can help manage SVT. These may include avoiding triggers such as caffeine and stimulants, managing stress through relaxation techniques, maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

Monitoring and Follow-Up:

Regular monitoring by a healthcare provider is essential for individuals with SVT. This may involve routine check-ups, electrocardiograms (ECGs), or other cardiac monitoring devices to assess heart rhythm and adjust treatment plans as needed.

Conclusion: Living Well with Supraventricular Tachycardia:

While SVT can be a challenging condition, advancements in medical care and treatment options offer effective strategies for managing and controlling episodes. Individuals experiencing symptoms suggestive of SVT, such as palpitations or dizziness, should seek prompt medical attention. With the right interventions and care, many individuals with SVT can lead normal and active lives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)?

SVT is an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by a rapid heartbeat originating above the heart's ventricles. It is caused by abnormal electrical pathways, leading to episodes of a faster-than-normal heart rate.

2. How Common is SVT?

SVT is a relatively common cardiac arrhythmia. While it can occur at any age, it is often diagnosed in young adults.

3. What Causes SVT?

SVT can be caused by abnormal electrical pathways in the heart, conditions like atrial fibrillation or flutter, heart disease, stress, anxiety, genetic factors and certain stimulants like caffeine or medications.

4. What Are the Symptoms of SVT?

Common symptoms include palpitations (rapid, fluttering heartbeat), dizziness or lightheadedness, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue, and, in severe cases, fainting (syncope).

5. Can SVT Cause Serious Health Issues?

While SVT itself is generally not life-threatening, prolonged episodes or frequent occurrences can lead to complications. In rare cases, SVT may contribute to heart failure or other cardiovascular issues.

6. How is SVT Diagnosed?

Diagnosis involves a combination of physical examinations, medical history reviews, and diagnostic tests such as electrocardiograms (ECGs), Holter monitors, or event monitors to capture and analyze heart rhythms during episodes.

7. Can SVT Be Prevented?

Some lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding triggers like caffeine and managing stress, may help reduce the frequency of SVT episodes. However, it may not be entirely preventable and medical interventions are often necessary.

8. What Triggers SVT Episodes?

Triggers can vary among individuals but may include stress, anxiety, stimulants like caffeine, certain medications, or underlying heart conditions.

9. Are SVT Episodes Dangerous?

While SVT episodes themselves are usually not dangerous, prolonged or frequent episodes can lead to complications. Individuals experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention for proper evaluation and management.

10. How is SVT Treated?

Treatment approaches include vagal maneuvers, medications (such as beta-blockers or antiarrhythmics), cardioversion (electrical shocks to restore normal rhythm), catheter ablation (destruction of abnormal pathways), implantable devices (pacemakers or ICDs) and lifestyle modifications.

11. Can SVT Affect Daily Activities?

With proper management and treatment, many individuals with SVT can lead normal, active lives. Lifestyle modifications and adherence to prescribed medications are crucial for minimizing the impact on daily activities.

12. Can SVT Be Inherited?

There may be a genetic predisposition to SVT in some cases. Individuals with a family history of cardiac arrhythmias may have an increased risk.

13. Can SVT Lead to Heart Failure?

While SVT itself is not a direct cause of heart failure, persistent rapid heart rates can strain the heart over time. Proper management and timely intervention are essential to prevent complications.

14. Is SVT a Lifelong Condition?

SVT may be a lifelong condition, but the impact can vary. With appropriate treatment and lifestyle management, many individuals can effectively control SVT and lead fulfilling lives.

15. Where Can I Find Support for SVT?

Support groups, online forums, and healthcare providers specializing in cardiac care can offer valuable support and information for individuals with SVT. Connecting with others who have similar experiences can provide insights and emotional support.