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How is supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) treated?
Your treatment for SVT depends on a few things. They include what type of SVT, how often you have episodes, and how severe your symptoms are. The goals of treatment are to prevent episodes, relieve symptoms, and prevent problems. You and your doctor can decide what type of treatment is right for you.
SVT is usually treated if:
You have symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, or fainting that are caused by your fast heart rate.
Your episodes of fast heart rate are occurring more often or do not return to normal on their own.
Treatment for sudden-onset (acute) episodes
When episodes of SVT start suddenly and cause symptoms, you can try vagal maneuvers. Your doctor will teach you how to do these safely. These are things such as bearing down or putting an ice-cold wet towel on your face. Bearing down means that you try to breathe out with your stomach muscles but you don't let air out of your nose or mouth. Your doctor might recommend that you do these actions while you lie down on your back. Your doctor may also prescribe a short-acting medicine that you can take. This allows some people to manage their SVT mostly at home.
If your heart rate cannot be slowed using vagal maneuvers, you may have to go to your doctor's office or the emergency room, where a fast-acting medicine can be given to slow your heart rate. If the arrhythmia does not stop and symptoms are severe, you may need a procedure called electrical cardioversion to reset your heart rhythm.
Ongoing treatment of recurring SVT
If you have recurring episodes of SVT, you may need to take medicines, either on an as-needed basis or daily. Medicine treatment may include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or other antiarrhythmic medicines. In people who have frequent episodes, treatment with medicines can decrease how often these occur. But these medicines may have side effects.
Many people with SVT have a procedure called catheter ablation. This procedure can stop the rhythm problem in most people. During this procedure, the extra electrical pathway or cells in the heart that are causing the fast heart rate can often be identified and destroyed. Ablation is considered safe. But it has some rare, serious risks.
An electric shock to the heart is called electrical cardioversion. It may be needed if you are having severe symptoms of SVT and your heart rate doesn't go back to normal using vagal maneuvers or fast-acting medicines.
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