Ventricular tachycardia is a very rapid heart rhythm that often starts in the ventricles. Individuals with heart conditions such as coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy are most frequently affected by the condition.
If a heart rhythm has at least three consecutive heartbeats and more than 100 beats per minute, it is considered as ventricular tachycardia.
Symptoms of Ventricular Tachycardia
Common symptoms of ventricular tachycardia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Cardiac arrest
Causes of Ventricular Tachycardia
- Ischemic heart disease: This is a heart condition characterized by the narrowing of heart arteries. This results in limiting blood flow to the heart due to plaque build-up
- Cardiomyopathy: This is a type of heart disease that normally weakens heart muscles
- Myocarditis: This normally occurs as a result of inflammation of the heart muscle
- Congenital coronary artery: This is a congenital condition whereby the coronary artery is in an abnormal position
- Electrolyte abnormalities: Ventricular tachycardia can be brought on by electrolyte imbalances in the body such as magnesium or potassium
- Acid-base abnormalities: These abnormalities may happen if the patient’s blood PH is too acidic or not acidic enough or too alkaline or not alkaline enough
- Structural heart disease: This is a type of heart condition that may occur from birth defects in the heart or damage from previous heart infections.
Diagnosis of Ventricular Tachycardia
To diagnose ventricular tachycardia, the doctor will do a physical exam and run some tests. The physical exam will involve listening to the patient’s heart and asking about his/her symptoms, health history and lifestyle in general.
The doctor will order the following tests should he/she suspect ventricular tachycardia:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test measures and records the electrical activities of the heart. It also shows a picture of the heart’s electrical activity. This will allow the doctor to spot an abnormality easily.
- Transoesophageal echocardiography: The procedure involves inserting an ultrasound probe into the esophagus. The probe produces detailed pictures of the heart using high-frequency sound waves.
- Cardiac MRI (CMRI): This is an imaging test that creates sharp, cross-sectional pictures of the heart using radio waves and powerful magnets. This enables doctors to take a closer look at the heart.
Treatment for Ventricular Tachycardia
The goal of ventricular tachycardia treatment is to rapidly restore normal cardiac rhythm and stop further episodes. Treatment options for ventricular tachycardia in an emergency include:
- Electrical defibrillation
- Antiarrhythmic medication
In order to prevent heart arrhythmias in the future, the following long-term treatment options may be recommended:
- Antiarrhythmic medication: These are medications that lower the patient’s heart rate and promote blood flow to the ventricles. However, they aren’t always given because they may have side effects and may not be as successful as other approaches.
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator: This is a device that is inserted into the chest or abdomen to repair irregular heart rhythms. When it notices an abnormal heart rhythm, it delivers a shock.
- Radiofrequency ablation: During this procedure, a radio wave produced by an electric current destroys abnormal tissues that cause an irregular heartbeat.
- Beta blockers: These are medications that lower the patient’s blood pressure and lessen the speed and force of the heartbeat. Although beta blockers can have negative side effects, doctors frequently prescribe them because the benefit outweighs the risk.
Outlook of Ventricular Tachycardia
If treatment is administered efficiently, the outlook for patients with tachycardia is usually positive. However, if the condition goes untreated, individuals are at a greater risk of sudden heart arrest and other serious cardiac illnesses.
Heart specialists recommend implanted devices as they can aid in preventing complications from occurring. Once implanted, these devices maintain the heart’s normal rhythm by delivering a shock when an abnormal rhythm is identified.