Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rhythm disorder caused by abnormal electrical signals in the heart chambers of the ventricles – chambers at the bottom of the heart that pump blood to all other organs in the body. In this condition, the heart beats much faster than normal.
The human heart rate is controlled by electrical signals from the heart tissue. Normally, a healthy heart beats about 60 to 100 times a minute, regulated by signals from the heart’s upper chambers called the atria.
When a person has ventricular tachycardia, the electrical signals in the ventricles appear in the wrong shape. As a result, the pulse (also known as the natural pacemaker) is affected and results in a heartbeat that reaches 170 beats or more under one minute.
Rapid heart rate will affect the performance of the atria. This causes the atria to not have enough time to replenish and drain blood to the ventricles, resulting in improper blood-pumping throughout the body.
In some cases, this condition can cause a very fast heart rate of up to 300 beats per minute, also known as ventricular fibrillation. When this possibly life-threatening condition happens, the person must immediately get emergency care.
Causes of Ventricular Tachycardia
Ventricular tachycardia results from disruption of the normal electrical impulses that control the pumping rate of the ventricles. This condition can be caused by many things such as:
- Medication side effects.
- Structural heart disease.
- Inflammation that attacks the skin and other tissues.
- Abuse of illegal drugs such as cocaine.
- Abnormal electrical pathways in the heart, such as long QT syndrome that may present at birth
- Electrolyte imbalance, a mineral required to carry electrical impulses.
- Lack of oxygen levels in the heart due to heart disease, causing tissue damage in the heart.
In addition, people with other types of heart disease also have the potential to experience ventricular tachycardia. There are also other rare causes, but they can be categorized as triggers, such as:
- Genetic disorders.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
- Sarcoidosis, a disease causing inflamed tissues in the body
When to See a Doctor for Ventricular Tachycardia?
Ventricular tachycardia is a type of heart disease. Therefore, patients with ventricular tachycardia should consult a cardiologist.
Before conducting the examination, the doctor will first ask about the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Both will be used as a reference to determine the conditions and factors that trigger ventricular tachycardia.
In addition, the doctor may also carry out additional heart tests which include:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG), detects electrical activity in the heart using small sensors called electrodes attached to the patient’s arm and chest.
- Cardiac imaging tests, help find structural abnormalities that affect blood flow and trigger ventricular tachycardia. Imaging tests include MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays.
- Stress test is performed to see how the patient’s heart functions when working hard during exercise or when given medication to speed up the heart rate. Patients will have electrodes placed on their arms and chest while they walk on the treadmill.
- Electrophysiological examination confirms the doctor’s diagnosis or determines problems in the patient’s heart circuit. The test is done by inserting a thin, flexible tube with an electrode at the end through the groin or neck. After that, the tube is directed through the blood vessels to the heart.
Symptoms of Ventricular Tachycardia
Sometimes, people with ventricular tachycardia only experience an increased heart rate for a few seconds. When this happens, the patient generally will not experience any other symptoms.
However, most cases of ventricular tachycardia last a longer time and may cause these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations or increased or slowed heart rate from normal conditions.
In severe cases, ventricular tachycardia can cause the patient to pass out and become unconscious. It is not uncommon for patients to experience sudden cardiac arrest.
Some patients with ventricular tachycardia experience chest pain and a burst of accelerated heartbeat. If left untreated, this condition will lead to difficulty breathing and unconsciousness.
Treatment for Ventricular Tachycardia
In the case of mild ventricular tachycardia, the patient may not need special treatment, especially if the increased heart rate only occurs within a few seconds. However, if the symptoms last for long durations of time, the patient will require emergency care.
When the triggers for the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia are identified, the doctor will try to address these triggers first. Subsequently, the doctor will assess whether the heartbeat condition has returned to normal.
In many cases, the doctor’s attempts to tackle the trigger factors are successful. If the consumption of certain medicines and caffeine is the underlying cause of the symptoms, the doctor will also ask the patient to stop consuming them.
If it is not successful, the doctor will provide several treatment options. One option is to place a small device called an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) under the skin, precisely under the collarbone.
Placement of the ICD will help control the patient’s heart rate. This device can also prevent the ventricular tachycardia from worsening.
There is also another treatment called cardiac ablation. In this procedure, doctors use heat to destroy abnormal heart cell tissue. This method is considered effective in treating the condition as well as preventing the condition from recurring in the future.
In some cases, the doctor may also administer treatment by giving medications to slow down the patient’s heart rate.
Treatment Cost for Ventricular Tachycardia
The cost for Ventricular Tachycardia treatment varies, depending on the causes and treatment method chosen.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of Ventricular Tachycardia treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Ventricular Tachycardia
The most effective preventive measure to avoid symptoms of ventricular tachycardia is to reduce the risk of heart disease. For people with heart disease, it is recommended to perform routine supervision and undergo treatment to prevent complications of ventricular tachycardia.
To reduce the risk of heart disease, one can:
- Quit smoking.
- Manage stress.
- Incorporate a healthy diet and regular exercise.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Carry out a routine health screen.
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol low
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Ventricular Tachycardia
Treatment of ventricular tachycardia patients at home can be done by maintaining the patient’s health. This will also maintain the heart’s health. The patient is suggested to exercise regularly and have a healthy diet to achieve a healthy body and proportional weight.
If the doctor has prescribed special medications to control the heart rate, the patient is advised to routinely take the medications.