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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.
Brief episodes of ventricular tachycardia may not cause symptoms in some people. Or you may have:
Sustained and more-serious ventricular tachycardia may cause:
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:
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:
In some cases, the exact cause of ventricular tachycardia is unknown.
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:
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.
With treatment, it may be possible to prevent or manage episodes of 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.
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.