Ventricular Tachycardia (VT)

Ventricular Tachycardia (VT)

What is ventricular tachycardia?

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.

What are the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia?

The most common symptom of VT are palpitations described as a rapid heartbeat. In VT this is often associated with dizziness, breathlessness or chest tightness and in some cases can cause blackouts or be the cause of a cardiac arrest. Presentation with VT is often a medical emergency and patients need specialist treatment immediately as the condition can be life threatening.

What assessment do I need if I have ventricular tachycardia?

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. In some cases patients may need to be admitted to hospital to safely complete investigation and treatment.

What are the treatments for ventricular tachycardia?

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.

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. This is a very complex area and requires the expertise of a Consultant Electrophysiology Cardiologist.