Ventricular tachycardia is a disorder that affects the heart rhythm caused by changes in electrical signals in the lower part of the heart, called the ventricle, causing an increase in heart rate, with beats above 120 per minute, which prevents the ventricle from filling with blood properly, leading to a decrease in the heart’s ability to pump blood to the body and lungs.
Usually, ventricular tachycardia can cause symptoms of heart palpitation or weakness, which can last for a few seconds and, in most cases, spontaneously improve, but in some cases, when it occurs frequently or lasts longer than 30 seconds, it can cause other symptoms such as feeling short of breath, chest pain, fainting or even cardiac arrest.
Therefore, it is important to consult a cardiologist so that the cause of ventricular tachycardia can be identified and the most appropriate treatment initiated, which may involve the use of medication or surgery, in the most severe cases.
Ventricular tachycardia may not cause symptoms in some people when it lasts a few seconds or is not very frequent. However, when the heart begins to have more difficulty pumping blood to the body properly, it can cause symptoms such as:
- Heart palpitation;
- Excessive weakness;
- Shortness of breathe;
- Chest pain;
- Accelerated pulse;
In addition, when symptoms are felt for more than 30 seconds, there is an increased risk of cardiac arrest, which can be life-threatening, and therefore, if you experience any of the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia, you should seek care doctor immediately or the nearest emergency room.
How to confirm the diagnosis
The diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia must be made by the cardiologist based on symptoms, assessment of personal and family history, clinical examination and some tests such as electrocardiogram, echodopplercardiogram, X-ray, computed tomography, magnetic resonance, angiography or Holter, for example .
In addition, by analyzing the exams, it is possible for the physician to classify the type of ventricular tachycardia, which includes:
- Unsustained: that’s when your heart rate reaches more than 120 beats per minute and lasts less than 30 seconds;
- Sustained: that is when the heart reaches more than 120 beats per minute for more than 30 seconds;
- Monomorphic: when the heart maintains a constant rate of rapid heartbeat with each beat;
- Polymorphic: when the heart rate changes with each beat.
Although there are several types of ventricular tachycardia, they all cause similar symptoms, however, sustained ventricular tachycardia is more serious and can cause ventricular fibrillation, which is when the heart contracts in a disordered way, which can result in cardiac arrest.
Ventricular tachycardia is caused by an interruption of electrical impulses in the heart that control the pumping of blood to the body and lungs, and some factors can contribute to its emergence, such as:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy;
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy;
- Coronary artery problems such as coronary obstruction;
- Congenital heart defects that occur at the birth of the baby;
- Use of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine;
- Use of medications such as antiarrhythmics or antibiotics;
- Imbalance of electrolytes in the body, especially potassium.
In some cases, when the cause of ventricular tachycardia cannot be identified, it is called idiopathic ventricular tachycardia.
How is the treatment done
Treatment for ventricular tachycardia should be guided by a cardiologist and aims to return the heartbeat to normal, in addition to preventing future episodes of tachycardia.
The main treatments for ventricular tachycardia include:
Cardioversion is an “electrical shock” in the person’s chest using a defibrillator, which is a machine that monitors the rhythm of the heartbeat before and after the application of shocks.
This treatment is performed at the hospital and is indicated in cases of sustained ventricular tachycardia, and it is a procedure that does not cause pain, as the person receives sleep medication before undergoing cardioversion.
2. Use of medications
Some drugs may be indicated by the cardiologist to prevent an increase in heartbeat, such as antiarrhythmics, calcium channel blockers or beta blockers, being recommended in cases where the person has no symptoms but who have episodes of ventricular tachycardia lasting longer than 30 seconds.
However, this treatment is not as effective as cardioversion, and the risk of side effects is greater.
3. Implantable defibrillator
The implantable defibrillator is a device similar to a pacemaker, placed in the chest through surgery, indicated for people who are at high risk of having new episodes of ventricular tachycardia and who can be life-threatening.
This device is able to monitor and detect increased heartbeats and deliver electrical shocks to get the heart back to beating at its normal rhythm.
4. Catheter ablation
Catheter ablation is a type of surgery in which the doctor inserts a catheter into a vein or artery in the groin, arm or neck to reach the heart and apply energy, called radiofrequency, to destroy the damaged parts. of the heart that may be causing the ventricular tachycardia.
This treatment is done in a hospital, with the use of general anesthesia or light sedation so that the person does not feel pain during the procedure.
Cardiac surgery can be performed by the cardiologist when other treatment options are not effective to control the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia or when the person has a defect or change in the heart valves or blood vessels in the heart, for example.
The complications that ventricular tachycardia can cause are:
- Frequent fainting or loss of consciousness;
- Cardiac insufficiency;
- Cardiac arrest.
These complications depend on the severity of the ventricular tachycardia, the frequency with which the tachycardia occurs, and the duration of the rapid heartbeat. Therefore, whenever there is a suspicion of a heart problem, it is very important to seek medical help.