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Supraventricular Tachycardia

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

  • Supraventricular (soo-prah-ven-TRIK-u-lar) tachycardia (tak-ee-KAHR-dee-ah), or SVT, is a condition where your heart beats much faster than it should. A normal heart rate in a person at rest is about 70 to 80 beats every minute. With SVT, your heart may beat 140 to 250 beats a minute. SVT usually comes and goes, and may last a few seconds to several days. If your SVT comes and goes, it is called paroxysmal (par-ok-SIZ-mal) supraventricular tachycardia, or PSVT.

  • When your heart is beating too fast, your blood may not be able to move well through your body. This may cause you to feel dizzy, short of breath, or sick to your stomach during episodes of SVT. Some people feel fine during SVT episodes. Problems that your SVT may cause may depend on how long the event lasts, what caused it, how fast your heart beats, and your general health. SVT may be treated with lifestyle changes, medicines, cardioversion, or an ablation procedure. Often, SVT does not need treatment.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

Without treatment, you could have more SVT attacks. Rarely, SVT may be serious, even life threatening. SVT may cause problems such as heart damage or heart failure in some people. The sooner you are treated after a SVT attack begins the fewer problems you will have. Call your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your medicine or care.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Activity:

You may need to rest in bed until your heart rhythm is under control. Your caregiver will tell you when it is OK to get out of bed. Call your caregiver before getting up for the first time. If you ever feel weak or dizzy, sit or lie down right away. Then use the call button to call a caregiver.

Call button:

You may use the call button when you need your caregiver. Pain, trouble breathing, or wanting to get out of bed are good reasons to call. The call button should always be close enough for you to reach it.

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Tests:

You may need one or more of the following tests. The results of these tests help caregivers plan the best way to treat you.

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.

  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your heart.

  • Electrophysiologic study: An electrophysiologic study, or EPS, is used to "map out" the electrical pathways in your heart that control your heartbeat. Readings are taken through small wires that are fed through a blood vessel in your arm, neck, chest, or groin to your heart. Your doctor can also use these wires to trigger your heart rhythm problem, and find the best way to treat it.

  • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.

  • Intake and output: Caregivers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day. Ask caregivers if they need to measure or collect your urine.

  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

  • Telemetry is continuous monitoring of your heart rhythm. Sticky pads placed on your skin connect to an EKG machine that records your heart rhythm.

  • Urine sample: For this test you need to urinate into a small container. You will be given instructions on how to clean your genital area before you urinate. Do not touch the inside of the cup. Follow instructions on where to place the cup of urine when you are done.

  • Tilt table test: If you have problems with fainting, you may need a tilt table test. This test checks to see what happens to your heart and your blood pressure when you change positions.

  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Treatment Options:

The treatment that is right for you depends on how bad your SVT is. It also depends on how long you have had SVT, what is causing it, and other heart or rhythm problems you may have. There are several ways that your caregiver may try to get your heart into a better rhythm or rate. Your treatment may change if your symptoms are not being controlled. This is often decided after you have tests. You may have some of the following treatments alone or together.

  • Heart medicine: This medicine is given to strengthen or regulate your heartbeat. It also may help your heart in other ways. Talk with your caregiver to find out what your heart medicine is and why you are taking it.

  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

  • Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your caregiver before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

  • Vagal maneuvers: Vagal maneuvers use your own body to try and get your heart rate to slow down. Caregivers may have you cough, bear down like you are having a BM, or put your face in ice water. Caregivers may even teach you how to do vagal maneuvers so you can do them yourself at home.

  • Carotid sinus massage: Caregivers may massage your neck to try and slow your heart rate. This is called a carotid (kah-ROT-id) sinus massage. Never try to do a carotid sinus massage yourself.

  • Chemical cardioversion: Short-term medicines may be given to change your heart rate or rhythm. This is called a chemical cardioversion (KAHR-dee-oh-ver-zhun). You may need a chemical cardioversion if your heart rhythm is making you sick or is dangerous. You may need a chemical cardioversion more than once.

  • Electrical cardioversion: This is when an electric shock is given to the heart. The shock is usually given through paddles or sticky patches placed on your chest or back. The shock helps your heart return to a normal beat. Electrical cardioversion may be needed if medicine does not make your heart work better. You may also need an electrical cardioversion if your heart rhythm is dangerous. You may be given medicine to help you relax before getting the electric shock. If the shock works, your heart rate and rhythm will return to normal. Medicine may be needed to keep your heart in a normal rhythm. You may need an electrical cardioversion more than once.

  • Ablation: An ablation (ab-LAY-shun) is a procedure where a wire is fed through an artery or a vein to your heart. Your doctor finds the area of the heart muscle causing the electrical problems in your heart. Heat energy is applied to the area to stop the electrical problem. An ablation may be done at the same time as an electrophysiology test. An ablation may keep your SVT from coming back forever.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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