Methods for Stopping Atrial Tachycardia

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Stopping Atrial Tachycardia

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/31/2011

Stopping atrial tachycardia may be done in a number of ways. Here we will list and discuss each method for you.

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    Atrial tachycardia is characterized by the heart's atrium beating faster than it normally should. It is an arrhythmia that is a type of supraventricular tachycardia. This type occurs when a small tissue area located at any place in the heart's atria begins firing and driving the heart much faster than the natural pacemaker of the heart. There is no underlying cause in most cases, but it may occur along with other heart problems, such as heart valve problems or a previous heart attack. There are different methods than can be used in stopping atrial tachycardia.

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    Vagal Maneuvers

    A vagal maneuver is something a doctor may ask the patient to do when the patient is experiencing an episode of a fast heartbeat. These typically affect the vagus nerve and this nerve plays a role in regulating a patient's heartbeat. This maneuver involves coughing, bearing down like a patient would if he or she was trying to have a bowel movement, and placing an icepack on the patient's face.

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    Medications

    If a vagal maneuver fails to stop a patient's fast heartbeat, medication may be necessary. The doctor may inject an anti-arrhythmic medication to try and bring the patient's heart rate back down to normal. These types of drugs are only given at a hospital. If the doctor feels the patient may also benefit from anti-arrhythmic medications at home, he or she will prescribe a pill form of this type of drug, such as propafenone or flecainide. The patient may be told to take a dose (the dose is determined by the patient's doctor) when he or she is experiencing an episode of a fast heart beat that fails to get better with vagal maneuvers.

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    Cardioversion

    This is a procedure a doctor can perform when the patient does not respond well enough to vagal maneuvers and medications. During the procedure, the doctor will place patches or paddles on the patient's chest and then deliver a shock to the patient's heart. The current that is used will affect the heart's electrical impulses and then restore a normal heart rhythm. This method in stopping atrial tachycardia is generally used when emergency care is necessary.

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    Avoiding Triggers

    Avoiding the triggers that cause the heart rate to speed up should be every patient's main goal. Patients should avoid, or severely limit, their caffeine intake. In coffees and teas that are decaffeinated may cause this condition in some patients, so avoiding these types of beverages can also be helpful. Men should not drink more than two alcoholic beverages each day and women should not drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day. Patients who smoke should quit. Over-the-counter herbal remedies, diet pills, decongestants, and energy pills should be avoided. Patients must also refrain from using illegal drugs, such as ecstasy, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

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    Resources

    Mayo Clinic. (2009). Tachycardia. Retrieved on January 28, 2011 from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tachycardia/DS00929

    Budzikowski, A.S. MD. PhD. And Michalkiewicz, D. MD. (2009). Atrial Tachycardia: Differential Diagnoses and Workup. Retrieved on January 28, 2011 from eMedicine: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/151456-diagnosis

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