Ventricular tachycardia is a rapid, regular heart rhythm that starts in the lower part of the heart (ventricles). If left untreated, ventricular tachycardia may get worse and lead to ventricular fibrillation, fast and irregular heartbeat. This can be a life-threatening condition, since the heart beats are so fast and irregular that the heart stops pumping blood. In fact, ventricular fibrillation is a leading cause of sudden cardiac death.
Causes & Symptoms
The most common cause of ventricular tachycardia is heart disease, including hypertrophic or dilated cardiomyopathy, myocarditis or a previous heart attack.
Other causes may include:
- Certain medications
- Blood imbalances, such as low potassium levels
- Herbal remedies (especially those that contain ma huang or ephedra) and diet pills
- Stimulants such as cocaine
Symptoms of ventricular tachycardia include:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Fainting (syncope)
- Weak or no pulse
- Heart palpitations
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
An electrocardiogram performed while tachycardia is occurring can be the most effective means of diagnosis. Because ventricular tachycardia can come and go, your physician may use a portable EKG, or Holter monitor, to record your heart rhythm for 24 hours. Other diagnostic tests can include:
In some cases, medication can be used to control the arrhythmia caused by ventricular tachycardia. Other treatments include: