Ventricular tachycardia, or V-tach/VT, is a condition characterized by a rapid heart rhythm originating from the lower chambers of the heart, known as the ventricles. Normally, the heart rhythm is controlled by the sinus node in the upper chamber (atrium), which sends electrical signals to initiate each heartbeat. However, when the electrical signaling in the ventricles is disrupted, it can cause the heart rate to increase to 100 beats or more, leading to ventricular tachycardia.
It is important to note that some people with ventricular tachycardia may not experience any symptoms. However, common symptoms of ventricular tachycardia include chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, fatigue or weakness, and heart palpitations. In some cases, symptoms may go away on their own within 30 seconds, but if they last longer than 30 seconds, it can result in a drop in blood pressure, which may be life-threatening.
Ventricular tachycardia occurs when there is an abnormal heart rhythm in the ventricles, causing the heart to beat faster than normal. Although the exact cause of the condition is unknown, some heart conditions have been identified as possible causes, including an enlarged heart, previous heart attack or injection, ischemic heart disease, myocarditis, long QT syndrome, congenital heart disease, and electrical abnormalities in the heart's electrical system.
To diagnose ventricular tachycardia, the doctor will typically conduct a physical exam, which includes listening to the heart's rhythm using a stethoscope and checking the patient's blood pressure. The doctor may also perform additional tests to confirm the diagnosis, such as a chest X-ray to evaluate the size and shape of the heart and blood vessels. An electrocardiogram (ECG) may be used to measure the heart's speed and rhythm through electrical currents. An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to produce images of the heart and can identify damaged areas, with ejection fraction (EF) recorded. A cardiac MRI utilizes radio waves and strong magnets to produce a detailed, cross-sectional image of the heart. An electrophysiology (EP) study can locate abnormal heartbeats precisely, while coronary angiography examines for blockages using contrast dye and X-rays, providing detailed examination.
Ventricular tachycardia lasting over 30 seconds requires emergency treatment to avoid sudden cardiac arrest. The primary goal of treatment is to slow down the heart rate and prevent future episodes. Treatment options include cardioversion, medications, coronary angioplasty, implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), and cardiac ablation. Cardioversion involves electric shock to control the rapid heartbeat, while medications may include anti-arrhythmic drugs, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers. Coronary angioplasty uses a tiny balloon and a mesh-like tube (stent) to maintain blood flow by removing blockages. ICD is a portable device that monitors the heart rhythm and sends low or high-energy shocks to reset the heart to a normal rhythm. Cardiac ablation uses catheters with electrodes to deliver heat to create small scars in the heart, blocking abnormal electrical signals and restoring the normal heart rhythm.
There are various risk factors associated with ventricular tachycardia, including a previous heart attack, ventricular scar, LV dysfunction, low blood pressure, high heart rate, diabetes, obesity, smoking, inactive lifestyle, alcohol consumption, electrolyte imbalance, and family history of heart disease.
There are ways to prevent ventricular tachycardia, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting caffeine intake, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing stress, limiting alcohol consumption, increasing physical activity, and monitoring heart conditions.
Ventricular tachycardia can lead to severe complications if left untreated, including fatal episodes of three or more occurrences within 24 hours, heart failure, and sudden death caused by cardiac arrest.
The prognosis for ventricular tachycardia depends on the promptness of treatment. Patients who receive timely medical attention typically have a favorable outlook. However, if the condition remains untreated, the risk of cardiac arrest and other complications may increase.