Choose UNC Medical Center’s electrophysiology experts to diagnose and treat your heart arrhythmia conditions, including supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), a rapid heart rhythm beginning in the upper chambers of the heart (atria).
During SVT episodes, your heart’s electrical system doesn’t work properly, which causes heart rates of 120-220 beats per minute.
SVT may cause you to experience these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
Types of SVT
The most common SVT types include:
- Atrioventricular (AV) nodal reentrant tachycardia – Abnormal electrical loop occurring within the AV node
- AV reentrant tachycardia – Abnormal electrical loop using an extra heart muscle fiber; includes Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome
- Atrial tachycardia – Rapidly firing atrial muscle; no abnormal electrical loop
- Atrial flutter – Abnormal electrical loop occurring in the heart’s right atrium; similar to atrial fibrillation
SVT often occurs suddenly, lasting for minutes to hours or, in some cases, until treatment. Your doctor may recommend using vagal maneuvers—such as holding your breath while bearing down or dunking your face in cold water—to end longer-lasting SVT episodes.
Resolving acute SVT episodes may require paramedics or emergency room physicians to deliver an intravenous drug (adenosine).
Rare SVT episodes often require only medical observation. You may need SVT treatment if you have frequent or prolonged episodes or if SVT limits your day-to-day functions. Your UNC Medical Center electrophysiology specialist may recommend treatments such as: