Ventricular tachycardia is a heart disorder that is related to the rhythm of the heart and created by the irregular electrical signals in the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart).
Your heart pulsation is determined by the electrical signals sent to the heart tissues. The heartbeat of a healthy person is about 60 to 80 beats per minute when the individual is at rest and is measured by the signals originating from the upper chambers of the heart called atria.
When a person experiences ventricular tachycardia, the occurrence of abnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers cause the heart to beat faster than the normal pace and completely is out of sync with the atria.
If this situation occurs, your heart would not be able to pump out enough blood to the other organs of the body due to irregular pulsation of heart chambers and the lack of sync between each other.
Ventricular tachycardia can be brief, lasting only for a couple of seconds, and may not cause any symptoms. Or else, it can occur for a longer duration causing symptoms like dizziness, palpitations, lightheadedness and loss of consciousness.
In certain cases, ventricular tachycardia may result in a sudden halt of your heart (cardiac arrest), a life-threatening medical emergency. This condition can occur in people with a history of a previous heart attack, if the heart is weak and is not being able to pump efficiently, due to cardiovascular diseases and other heart complications.
Ventricular fibrillation is a type of ventricular tachycardia, which can be fatal if unaddressed and untreated. The blood circulation in the body is governed by electrical impulses that stimulate blood flow from the heart to all the parts of the body. When there is an abnormality in these electrical impulses, the contractions of the heart muscle becomes irregular with either being fast or slow. Ventricular tachycardia is referred to as an arrhythmia where the lower heart chambers or ventricles contract faster than the usual pace in an uncoordinated manner.
Ventricular tachycardia can further lead to ventricular fibrillation or can originate from the single ventricular beats. This irregular pulsation occurs in many people having cardiovascular disorders or a history of heart attack. It can also happen due to abnormalities in electrolytes or rarely in a normal heart.
In some people, brief episodes of ventricular tachycardia may not show any symptoms. However, others may experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Feeling of palpitations
- Chest pain (angina)
- Seizures or strokes
A more serious condition of ventricular tachycardia may cause:
- Fainting or Loss of consciousness
- Cardiac arrest (sudden death)
When to See a Doctor?
There may be many factors responsible behind ventricular tachycardia. Hence, it is crucial to get a proper diagnosis and care for the same. If you experience any of the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia, it is advised to get proper medical assistance.
If you suffer from difficulty in breathing or fainting along with chest pain continuing for a few minutes, make sure you call for medical assistance immediately and have someone at home to assist you till the medical help arrives.
Sometimes you might notice recurrent episodes of seizures, shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness. These signs must not be ignored. A delay in getting a screening done for ventricular tachycardia can result in unfavorable complications. Hence, it is imperative that you get an ECG done to confirm or rule out any possibilities of an arrhythmia.
Ventricular tachycardia occurs as a result of the disturbance in the electrical impulses that regulate the rate of your ventricles’ pumping action. There could be numerous factors contributing to the disruption in electrical signals.
Disturbance in the electrical impulses is caused due to:
- Tissue damage in the heart owing to many conditions may result in a lack of oxygen supply to the heart
- Congenital deformities in the electrical pathways
- Structural heart disease (cardiomyopathy)
- Side effects of some medications
- An inflammatory disorder affecting the skin or other tissues (sarcoidosis)
- Drug abuse
In some cases, it may be difficult to determine the exact cause of ventricular tachycardia.
The diagnostic process involves an examination of your symptoms along with a detailed understanding of your genetic and medical history. The doctor might also recommend a physical examination to confirm the condition.
The most recommended cardiac tests that your doctor might suggest are:
1) Electrocardiogram (ecg)
An ECG is the most commonly used to diagnose ventricular tachycardia. The test detects the heart’s electrical impulses using a tiny sensor attached to your arms and chest.
This device records the strength of the electrical impulses and timings as they travel through the heart. The patterns of electrical signals are examined to decide the type of tachycardia you have, and how irregular the heartbeat is.
Your doctor may also recommend the use of a portable ECG device to get more information about the heartbeat. This includes:
- Holter Monitor: This small ECG device can be carried in your pocket or you can wear it on a belt. It records the activity of your heart for a period up to 3 days providing a long duration record of your heart’s functioning. Your doctors may also recommend you to keep note of any symptoms you experience during that period and the time it occurs.
- Event Monitor: This portable ECG device is capable of monitoring your heart activity from a few weeks to months. You need to wear it all day however; it records only at certain times and for a few minutes at a time. You need to activate the event monitor by pushing a button when you feel the symptoms of fast heartbeat. Other monitors can sense the problem automatically and start recording, allowing your doctor to examine your heart rhythm at the time of symptoms.
- Transtelephonic monitor: This monitoring device will provide a continuous recording of your heart rhythm if you wear it continuously. It can also be wireless.
- Implantable loop recorder: This is a wireless implantable device that can be placed underneath the skin for a period as long as 3 years to continuously monitor your heart rhythm.
2) Cardiac Imaging
Imaging of the heart can also be performed to see if there are any structural abnormalities affecting the blood flow and contributing to the progress of ventricular tachycardia.
Types of cardiac imaging used for the evaluation of ventricular tachycardia:
- Echocardiogram (echo): An echocardiogram is capable of creating a moving picture of your heart, using sound waves through a transducer that is placed on the chest to emit and detect these waves. An echo can recognize any abnormalities in the heart valves and muscles that result in poor blood flow.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI provides a static or dynamic picture of the courses of blood in your heart, and identifies if there are any irregularities.
- Computerized tomography (CT): CT scan combines multiple x-ray images to provide a detailed cross-sectional view of the heart.
- Coronary angiogram: A coronary angiogram is used to study how blood is flowing through your heart and veins. The doctor will use a coronary angiogram to find out any blockages or abnormalities there. The process uses a dye and special X-ray to show the inner portion of your coronary arteries.
- Chest X-ray: This is a painless test applied to take static pictures of your lungs and heart and can identify if there is any enlargement in your heart.
Urgent Ventricular Tachycardia Treatment
Ventricular tachycardia may be life-threatening and sometimes may require urgent medical treatment. Urgent treatment generally involves restoring the normal heart pulses by delivering a jolt of electricity to the heart via defibrillation. It also involves giving medications orally.
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is used to perform defibrillation. An anti-arrhythmic medication injection like lidocaine may also be used in the treatment for sustained ventricular tachycardia to restore the heart rate.
Risk Factors and Prevention
Ventricular tachycardia can be prevented by reducing the likelihood of developing heart disease. If you are having cardiovascular issues, you need to monitor it regularly and follow the treatment plan properly to reduce the risk of ventricular tachycardia.
In some cases, the disease may also occur without the presence of heart disease. This is known as idiopathic ventricular tachycardia.
1) Prevent Heart Disease
- Make exercise discipline and follow a healthy diet. A heart-healthy low-fat diet, rich in fibers is good for the heart. Load your diet with fruits and veggies rich in vitamins and Omega 3 fatty acids.
- An overweight body is likely to raise the risk of several other diseases and hence maintaining your body weight is very essential.
- Keep a check in your blood pressure and control the cholesterol level in your body. Lifestyle changes are crucial to avoid the risk of hypertension, complete heart block and high cholesterol.
- Quit smoking.
- If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. You can consult your doctor about how much you should limit alcohol consumption.
- Avoid using recreational drugs and other stimulants. Talk to your doctor if you really need the help of any rehabilitation program that can help you quit recreational drugs.
- When using OTC medication, be careful. Some cough medications have stimulants and may trigger a faster heartbeat.
- Limit the intake of caffeine. If you drink caffeinated beverages frequently, do it in moderation and limit to one or two cups per day.
- Try to avoid stress. Stay away from unnecessary stress and learn to practice some stress-busting techniques like meditation.
- Go for a regular health checkup and if you notice any signs or symptoms report immediately to your doctor.
2) Monitor Your Existing Heart Disease
If you are already having cardiovascular issues, you can take a few steps to cut down the risk of developing ventricular tachycardia. If you notice any changes in the symptoms or any new symptoms, report to best Cardiologist doctor in india immediately. Even the slightest of a change can become a problem if left unattended.