Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is an abnormally fast heart beat that originates from the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles). Unlike SVTs, ventricular arrhythmias are potentially dangerous and will require careful assessment and treatment. The risk of VT is related to whether the heart is structurally normal or abnormal and whether the heart is functioning normally.
VT in patients with a structurally normal heart is usually benign and carries a high chance of cure with treatment.
VT in patients with a structurally abnormal heart is a more serious condition and can be a cause of cardiac arrest in some patients. This type of VT can present as a medical emergency and patients who experience this need careful and rapid assessment and treatment.
The most common symptom of VT are palpitations described as a rapid heartbeat. In VT this is often associated with:
If you have VT or suspected VT your cardiologist will want to perform an ECG, an echocardiogram and ambulatory ECG monitoring. In many cases further tests to delineate the underlying cause will be necessary including cardiac magnetic resonance imaging or coronary angiography.
There are a number of different approaches to the treatment of VTs which can to be tailored to your individual circumstances.
In patients with a structurally normal heart, the first line of treatment for VT is medication. These types of VTs are potentially curable with a small operation called catheter ablation and for patients who are experiencing frequent symptoms, despite medication, this is the treatment of choice.
The procedure is invasive and involves the insertion of catheters, or fine wires, to the heart through the veins at the top of the leg. There are electrodes at the tip of the wires which detect electrical signals from different parts of the heart. Radio waves are used to create heat which destroys (ablates) the electrical signals that are responsible for triggering the VT.
The procedure normally only takes a couple of hours and is safe with a high chance of success. There are rare but potentially serious risks and therefore each patient needs to be assessed carefully to ensure that this is the right treatment for them.
In patients with structurally abnormal hearts, along with medication, it may be necessary to treat the fast heartbeats with an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) as these rhythms may be potentially life threatening. For patients who continue to have symptoms despite these measures, catheter ablation may be necessary but this is a very complex area and requires great expertise.
The Cardiologists here at the London Cardiac group are experts in the treatment of VTs and are highly trained to assess all patients and perform ablations for VT.