My Chart

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care Providers

We have a highly skilled team who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment.

Find a Provider

Ventricular Tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia) caused by abnormal electrical signals in the heart's lower chambers (ventricles). A healthy heart normally beats about 60 to 100 times a minute at rest. In ventricular tachycardia, the heart beats 100 or more beats a minute.

The chaotic heartbeats prevent the heart chambers from properly filling with blood. As a result, your heart may not be able to pump enough blood to your body and lungs. Ventricular tachycardia may last for only a few seconds, or it can last for much longer. You may feel dizzy or short of breath or have chest pain. Sometimes, ventricular tachycardia can cause your heart to stop (sudden cardiac arrest), a life-threatening medical emergency.

What happens once you have ventricular tachycardia?

Brief episodes of ventricular tachycardia may not cause symptoms in some people. Or you may have:

  • Dizziness.

  • Lightheadedness.

  • Chest pain (angina).

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Feeling as if your heart is racing (palpitations).

Sustained and more-serious ventricular tachycardia may cause:

  • Cardiac arrest (sudden death).

  • Loss of consciousness or fainting.

Many different conditions can cause ventricular tachycardia. It's important to get a prompt, accurate diagnosis and appropriate care. Get emergency care, or call 911 or your local emergency number for anyone experiencing these symptoms:

  • Fainting.

  • Difficulty breathing.

  • Chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes.

What causes ventricular tachycardia?

Ventricular tachycardia is caused by a disruption in the normal electrical impulses that control your heartbeat.

Many things can cause problems with the heart's electrical system. These include:

  • Medication side effects.

  • Congenital heart conditions.

  • Use of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine.

  • Imbalance of electrolytes necessary for electrical impulses.

  • Abnormalities of the heart result in scarring of heart tissue (sometimes called "structural heart disease"). The most common cause is a prior heart attack.

  • Low blood flow to the heart muscle due to coronary artery disease.

In some cases, the exact cause of ventricular tachycardia is unknown.

What types of tests are used to diagnosis ventricular tachycardia?

Electrocardiogram (EKG): This painless test detects and records your heart's electrical activity using small sensors (electrodes) attached to your chest and arms.

Electrophysiological test: During this test, a doctor inserts thin, flexible tubes (catheters) tipped with electrodes into your groin, arm, or neck and guides them through your blood vessels to various locations in your heart. Once in place, the electrodes map the pattern of the electrical impulses during each beat and identify abnormalities.

Cardiac imaging tests: Imaging tools used to diagnose ventricular tachycardia include:

  • Chest X-ray.

  • Echocardiogram.

  • Coronary angiogram.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  • Computerized tomography (CT).

Exercise stress test: Your doctor may recommend an exercise stress test to see how your heart works when you are active.

Tilt table test: This test is sometimes used to help your doctor better understand how your tachycardia contributes to fainting spells.

What types of treatments and procedures are used to treat ventricular tachycardia?

With treatment, it may be possible to prevent or manage episodes of ventricular tachycardia.

  • Catheter ablation: This procedure is often used when a discrete electrical pathway is responsible for an increased heart rate. In this procedure, a doctor inserts catheters into your heart. Electrodes damage (ablate) the extra electrical pathway and prevent it from sending electrical signals.

  • Medications: Anti-arrhythmic medications may prevent a fast heart rate when taken regularly. Other heart medications, such as calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers, may help.

  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): This pager-sized device is surgically implanted in your chest. It delivers precise electrical shocks to bring back a normal heart rhythm.

  • Surgery: Open-heart surgery may be needed to treat blockages in blood vessels. For example, with the MAZE procedure, a surgeon creates scar tissue in your heart to interfere with the abnormal electrical impulses.

What can I do to support my health when I have ventricular tachycardia?

If another medical condition contributes to ventricular tachycardia, such as heart disease, treat that problem to reduce the ventricular tachycardia.

Following your treatment plan is important. It can help lower your risk of future heart rhythm problems. If your symptoms change or get worse, tell your doctor immediately.

Why choose Presbyterian for ventricular tachycardia treatment?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a skilled electrophysiology team who can provide a wide range of cardiac rhythm treatments. Their electrophysiology cardiologists are trained in many different techniques and procedures, many of which can provide you with a shorter recovery period and the opportunity to recover at home.