by Vann M

Ventricular Tachycardia

Definition

Ventricular tachycardia is an abnormally fast heart rate. The abnormal heart rate originates in one of the heart's lower chambers (ventricles). It is diagnosed when there are 3 or more beats in succession originating from a ventricle. The heart beats at a rate greater than 100 beats per minute, but less than 200 beats per minute.
Ventricular tachycardia is considered sustained if it lasts more than 30 seconds. When this condition is sustained, the ventricles are not able to fill with enough blood for the heart to keep blood flowing properly through the body. This can result in lowered blood pressure, heart failure , and death.
Heart Chambers and Valves
heart anatomy
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Damage to the ventricles can cause ventricular tachycardia. This damage to the heart muscle may be due to conditions like a heart attack or cardiomyopathy .

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of ventricular tachycardia include:
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • History of heart attacks
  • Heart abnormalities, such as cardiomyopathy, mitral valve prolapse , valvular heart disease, or ion channel disorders
  • Diagnosis of electrical instability
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Beginning treatment for hypothyroidism
  • Use of certain medications, such as antipsychotics or anti-arrhythmic drugs
  • Extreme physical or emotional overstimulation
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood
  • Very high levels of acid in bodily fluids
  • Stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol , or cocaine
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary Artery plaque
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Symptoms

Ventricular tachycardia may cause:
  • A sensation of the heart beating very rapidly—palpitations
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Fainting
  • Chest discomfort
  • Pale skin color

Diagnosis

This condition can be challenging to diagnose. Ventricular tachycardia often happens in emergency situations. It must be identified and treated very quickly.
To make the diagnosis, the doctor will order tests, such as:

Treatment

In an emergency situation, CPR or a defibrillator may be required.
Other treatment options may include:
If other approaches fail, an automatic defibrillator will be inserted into the heart to deliver shocks as needed to keep the heart rate steady.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of ventricular tachycardia:
  • Take medications to control heart rate and blood pressure
  • Get proper treatment for any underlying heart conditions
  • Use alcohol and caffeine in moderation
  • Take prevention steps to avoid heart disease by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can successfully quit .

RESOURCES

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org
Heart Rhythm Society
http://www.hrsonline.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cardiovascular Society
http://www.ccs.ca
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://www.heartandstroke.com

References

Ventricular tachycardia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 8, 2013. Accessed December 30, 2014.
Ventricular tachycardia (VT). The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular%5Fdisorders/arrhythmias%5Fand%5Fconduction%5Fdisorders/ventricular%5Ftachycardia%5Fvt.html. Updated September 2013. Accessed December 30, 2014.
Ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. New York-Presbyterian Hospital website. Available at: http://nyp.org/health/ventricular-tachycardia-fibrillation.html. Accessed December 30, 2014.

Revision Information

Health Library Search

Only show results from the selected categories.











2 Tachycardia condition

Tachycardia is a rapid heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute. Sinus tachycardia, from the heart's sinus node, is a normal response to exercise, illness, or stress....

A premature ventricular beat (PVB) is an extra heartbeat caused by abnormal electrical activity. It starts in the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) before a no...

4 Implantable Defibrillators Save Lives lifestyle - men's health

Did you know there is a device that could fix your heartbeat if it goes awry? For people with heart rhythm problems, an implantable defibrillator can truly be a lifesaver...

Maze is a surgical procedure for the heart. Incisions are made through the electrical system of the upper chambers of the heart. The chambers are called the atria....

The Mini-Maze procedure is a surgical procedure of the heart. A pattern of scars are made in the upper chambers of the heart which may look like a maze. The chambers are ...

A heart assist system implantation is an artificial heart. It is also called a ventricular assist device (VAD). This single-chamber artificial heart works by compressed a...

The ventricles are the large lower chambers of the heart. They are responsible for moving blood to the organs and tissues of the body. In ventricular fibrillation, the he...

Sick sinus syndrome (SSS) is not one specific disease. It is the term is used to describe several heart rhythm disorders. Sick sinus syndrome disorders include:...

Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is an abnormally fast heart beat, that begins and ends suddenly. While the normal resting heart rate is approximately 60-10...

11 Atrial Flutter condition

The heart has four chambers. It has two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Electrical signals regulate the heart beat. The signals also help the ...

12 Bradycardia condition

Bradycardia is an abnormally slow heart rate. In adults, it is defined as a heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute. Different types of bradycardia are collectively r...