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Supraventricular Tachycardia in Children

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 12/27/2010

Supraventricular tachycardia in children is a rather common condition. Here we will explore the details offering a general overview.

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    Tachycardia is described as a fast heart rate. Supraventricular tachycardia in children is a condition in which the heart beat is due to a short circuit of electricity associated with the atria or from an electrically overactive atria area. Both result in an abnormally rapid heart beat. This condition usually occurs in distinct episodes. How long episodes last and how frequently they occur depends on the patient. This condition is the most common heart rhythm problem children experience. About one in 250 children that are otherwise healthy experience this condition.

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    Signs and Symptoms

    Children with this condition may feel as though their heart is pounding or racing. They may also feel dizzy or lightheaded if insufficient oxygen and blood is being pumped to the brain, due to this condition. In rare cases, children experience no signs or symptoms. Other possible signs and symptoms include:

    • Chest pressure or pain
    • Fatigue
    • Palpitations
    • Fainting
    • Shortness of breath
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    Diagnosis

    Several diagnostic tests may be done to diagnose this condition. The doctor will usually begin by listening to the child's heart using a stethoscope. He will also check the child's heart beat and examine him or her. This condition can be difficult to diagnose due to it typically happening only once in a while. An electrocardiogram may be done to evaluate the electrical evaluation of the heart. A portable rhythm-monitoring device may be necessary if the electrocardiogram fails to detect an abnormal heart heat.

    To record the child's heart activity for 24 hours, a Holter monitor may be used. An event recorder may also be used. This device can be turned on when the child feels a heart rhythm issue.

    Exercise testing, chest x-rays, or an echocardiogram may also be done to better understand how the child's heart is working and how it looks. To help determine the best course of treatment or to help determine the cause of the child's arrhythmia, electrophysiology studies may be conducted.

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    Treatment

    Supraventricular tachycardia in children may not require any treatment if the child is not experiencing any adverse effects because of it. However, this condition can be dangerous due to the fact that it sometimes prevents the heart from pumping sufficient amounts of blood to the body's organs and brain.

    Medications known as beta-blockers may be prescribed to correct the child's heart rate. If medication does not keep this condition well-controlled, or if medication is something the child does not want or cannot take, electrophysiology studies may be done to determine the exact type of supraventricular tachycardia and perform an ablation. An ablation is a medical procedure in which the doctor destroys the tissue, through the use of a catheter, that is causing the rapid heart beat.

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    Resources

    UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. (2010). Supraventricular Tachycardia. Retrieved on December 22, 2010 from UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital: http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/conditions/supraventricular_tachycardia/

    American Heart Association. (2010). Types of Arrhythmia in Children. Retrieved on December 22, 2010 from the American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/TypesofArrhythmias/Types-of-Arrhythmia-in-Children_UCM_302023_Article.jsp

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