What is ventricular tachycardia?
Ventricular tachycardia is a serious condition that causes your heart to beat much faster than normal. Normally, your heart beats 60-80 times per minute providing enough blood volume for the lung circulation and the peripheral circulation during systole and for itself through coronary arteries during diastole. In ventricular tachycardia, your heart beats too fast, a pulse of more than 100 beats per minute with at least three irregular heartbeats in a row (heart circle).
Ventricular tachycardia is a fast but regular rhythm. It can lead to ventricular fibrillation, which is fast and irregular. To prevent this complication from occurring, it’s important to get immediate treatment for ventricular tachycardia.
How common is ventricular tachycardia?
Ventricular tachycardia commonly occurs in patients with structural heart disease. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia?
If your heartbeat speeds up for only a few seconds, you might not feel like anything is wrong. If it lasts longer, you might notice your heart is beating fast, beating hard, or seems to skip a beat. These kinds of heartbeat changes are called palpitations. Other common symptoms include:
- Palpitations, an uncomfortable awareness of the heart beating rapidly or irregularly;
- Dizziness or lightheadedness;
- Shortness of breath;
- Chest pain or pressure;
- Near-fainting or fainting (syncope);
- Weak pulse or no pulse;
- Trouble breathing;
- Chest pain.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Trouble breathing;
- Chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes.
What causes ventricular tachycardia?
Sometimes it is not known what causes ventricular tachycardia, especially when it occurs in young people. But in most cases ventricular tachycardia is caused by:
- Cardiomyopathy, which weakens the heart muscle;
- Structural heart disease, which can be the result of heart damage from a previous heart attack;
- Ischemic heart disease, which is caused by lack of blood flow to the heart;
- Heart failure, which is characterized by the heart’s inability to pump an adequate amount of blood;
- An infection in the heart, called myocarditis.
Ventricular tachycardia can also be caused by:
- Medicines used to control heart rhythm problems;
- Changes in your blood (such as having too little or too much of certain chemicals in your blood);
- Not getting enough oxygen.
What increases my risk for ventricular tachycardia?
There are many risk factors for ventricular tachycardia, such as:
- Are an older adult;
- Have a heart condition;
- Have had a previous heart attack;
- Have a family history of ventricular tachycardia.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is ventricular tachycardia diagnosed?
Your doctor will make a diagnosis by performing a physical exam and running certain tests. During the exam, your doctor will listen to your heart and ask you about your symptoms. They’ll also check your pulse and blood pressure.
If ventricular tachycardia is suspected, your doctor will order certain tests. These may include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG);
- Cardiac MRI (CMRI);
- Transesophageal echocardiography.
How is ventricular tachycardia treated?
The treatment depends on what caused the ventricular tachycardia. Possible treatments include:
- Medicines to control the speed or rhythm of your heartbeat.
- A treatment called cardio version that involves applying a mild electrical current to the heart. This will help fix its rhythm.
- A device called an implantable cardio verter defibrillator (ICD for short) that the doctor can put in your body. The ICD uses mild electrical currents to help make your heart rhythm normal.
- A device called a pacemaker that the doctor can put in your body. The pacemaker sends electrical signals to your heart to control your heartbeat.
- Treatments called ablation. Ablation treatments use heat (called radiofrequency ablation) or cold (called cryoablation) to destroy the small part of the heart that is sending the abnormal electrical signals.
- Surgery to create scar tissue in the heart. This will block the flow of the abnormal electrical signals.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage ventricular tachycardia?
Having heart disease can make it more likely you will have ventricular tachycardia. There are many risk factors but they can all be prevented, such as:
Doing things that keep your heart healthy can help prevent heart disease. This includes:
- Eating a healthy diet. This involves eating lots of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products, but not a lot of meat or fatty foods.
- Walking or doing a physical activity on most days of the week.
- Losing weight, if you are overweight.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
State-specific mortality from sudden cardiac death–United States, 1999. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2002. Accessed December 4, 2016.
Echt DS, Liebson PR, Mitchell LB, et al. Mortality and morbidity in patients receiving encainide, flecainide, or placebo. The Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial. N Engl J Med 1991. Accessed December 4, 2016.
The 2003 American College of Cardiology/European Society of Cardiology (ACC/ESC). Accessed December 4, 2016.
Corrado D, Basso C, Leoni L, et al. Three-dimensional electroanatomical voltage mapping and histologic evaluation of myocardial substrate in right ventricular outflow tract tachycardia. J Am Coll Cardiol 2008. Accessed December 4, 2016.
Ventricular tachycardia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ventricular-tachycardia/home/ovc-20253531. Accessed December 4, 2016.
Ventricular Tachycardia. http://www.healthline.com/health/ventricular-tachycardia#Overview1. Accessed December 4, 2016.
Ventricular Tachycardia – Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/ventricular-tachycardia-topic-overview. Accessed December 4, 2016.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017