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What is paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)?

Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is episodes of rapid heart rate that start in a part of the heart above the ventricles. The term paroxysmal means from time to time.

Why you should care:

  • SVT is a common entity in clinical practice and a relatively common occurrence in the emergency department.
  • The incidence of SVT is approximately 35 cases per 100,000 patients with a prevalence of 2.25 cases per 1,000 in the general population.
  • Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are the most common subtypes of SVT, affecting approximately 2 million patients in the United States.
  • The most common of the PSVT is atrial fibrillation with a prevalence rate of approximately 0.4% to 1% occurring in men and women equally, it is projected to affect as many as 7.5 million patients by 2050.
  • The risk of developing PSVT was found to be twice in women as compared to men in a population-based study, with the prevalence of the PSVT higher with age.


Heart  palpitations, often described as a "rapid heartbeat." Other symptoms include the following:

Causes and Risk Factors:


  • It can develop when doses of the heart medicine, digitalis, are too high.
  • It can also occur with a condition known as  Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which is most often seen in young people and infants.

Risk Factors:


PSVT that occurs only once in a while may not need treatment if you don't have symptoms or other heart problems.

You can try the following techniques to interrupt a fast heartbeat during an episode of PSVT:

  • Valsalva maneuver. To do this, you hold your breath and strain, as if you were trying to have a bowel movement.
  • Coughing while sitting with your upper body bent forward.
  • Splashing ice water on your face.

You should avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and illicit drugs.

Long-term treatment for people who have repeat episodes of PSVT, or who also have heart disease, may include:

  • Cardiac ablation, a procedure used to destroy small areas in your heart that may be causing the rapid heartbeat (currently the treatment of choice for most PSVTs).
  • Daily medicines to prevent repeat episodes.
  • Pacemakers to override the fast heartbeat (on occasion may be used in children with PSVT who have not responded to any other treatment).

Surgery to change the pathways in the heart that send electrical signals (this may be recommended in some cases for people who need other heart surgery.


If other heart disorders are present, it can lead to congestive heart failure or angina.


* CIS does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content is for informational purposes only. 

Dr. Eva Agaiby

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