Heart Rhythm Disorders: Supraventricular Tachycardia

  • Basics

    Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a rapid heartbeat that begins above the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles) Figure 01. The heart relies on an organized sequence of electrical impulses in order to beat effectively. Any deviation from this normal sequence is known as "arrhythmia." Supraventricular tachycardia is an abnormally fast heart rhythm that begins in one of the upper chambers of the heart (atria), a component of the heart's electrical conduction system called the atrioventricular (AV) node, or both. Although supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is rarely life-threatening, the symptoms—which include a feeling of a racing heart, fluttering or pounding in the chest or extra heartbeats (palpitations), or dizziness—can be uncomfortable.

    Click to enlarge: The heart

    Figure 01. The heart

  • Causes

    Supraventricular tachycardia happens when the normal electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat are interrupted. The most common cause of SVT is called re-entry, and occurs when a "short circuit" causes electrical impulses to circulate in a merry-go-round-like cycle that takes over the heart's normal rhythm.

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