Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is a very fast heartbeat that comes and goes.
An electrical signal in your heart starts each heartbeat, causing the heart muscle to squeeze (contract). Normally, this signal starts in the upper right chamber of the heart (the right atrium) at a place called the sinus node. The signal then follows normal pathways to the upper left atrium and to the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). Sometimes the electrical signals don’t follow the normal pathways. This may make the heart beat very fast.
A fast heartbeat in infants and children may be caused by stress, exercise, fever, medicines, or by an extra electrical pathway connecting the upper and lower chambers. When the electrical signal goes down both pathways at the same time, the heart beats normally. If the electrical signal goes down one pathway faster than the other, it can then go back up the extra pathway, making the heart beat very fast.
Other causes of PSVT include heart disease, heart infections, health problems such as lung disease or an overactive thyroid gland, alcohol or drug abuse, caffeine, or smoking.
Symptoms of PSVT may be mild or severe. Symptoms may include:
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:
The goal of treatment is to help the heart keep a normal rhythm. Your child’s treatment depends on the cause of the PSVT, how often he has symptoms, and the severity of his symptoms.
Infants often outgrow PSVT by 6 to 12 months of age. Your child may not need treatment if the attacks are rare, don’t last long, and don’t cause serious symptoms. For most children, PSVT starts suddenly and lasts just a short time. The heart goes back to a normal rhythm on its own. If your child keeps having spells of PSVT, treatment may help keep him from having so many spells.
Your healthcare provider can show your child ways to stop a spell of PSVT. Other possible treatments are:
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child's healthcare provider. Ask your child’s provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.