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Tachycardia

(Ventricular Tachycardia; Supraventricular Tachycardia; Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia)

How to Say It: Tay-KEE-car-de-ya

Definition

Tachycardia is a fast heartbeat. It is a rate of more than 100 beats per minute.

It is normal for the heart to beat faster with exercise or stress. However, some fast heart beats are abnormal. They are called arrhythmias. Some arrhythmias can be life-threatening. They need to be treated.

Causes

Signals in the heart control how the heart beats. Tachycardia is caused by abnormal signals.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of tachycardia are:

  • Heart problems, such as:
  • Electrolyte problems—too much or too little calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium in the blood
  • Hypoxemia—not enough oxygen in the blood
  • Acidosis—too much acid in the body’s fluids

Symptoms

Symptoms of tachycardia are:

  • Pounding heartbeats
  • Fast heartbeats
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Problems breathing

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Tachycardia is usually diagnosed with an electrocardiogram (ECG). Patches are placed on the chest, arms, and legs—to check heart activity.

Other tests may be:

Treatment

The goal is to slow the fast heartbeats and prevent them from happening again. This includes treating any conditions that are causing the fast heartbeats.

Fast heartbeats that are life-threatening need care right away.

Care options may be:

Prevention

The risk of tachycardia may be lowered by:

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

Heart Rhythm Society
http://www.hrsonline.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Heart Rhythm Society
http://www.chrsonline.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://www.heartandstroke.ca

REFERENCES:

Arrhythmias. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia. Accessed September 10, 2021.

Cardioversion of atrial fibrillation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/cardioversion-of-atrial-fibrillation. Accessed September 10, 2021.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/device/implantable-cardioverter-defibrillator-icd-16. Accessed September 10, 2021.

Littmann L, Olson EG, et al. Initial evaluation and management of wide-complex tachycardia: a simplified and practical approach. Am J Emerg Med. 2019;37(7):1340-1345.

Risk factors & prevention. Heart Rhythm Society website. Available at: https://upbeat.org/early-warning-signs#axzz3NOr35s6f. Accessed September 10, 2021.

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/supraventricular-tachycardia-svt. Accessed September 10, 2021.

Tachyarryhthmias. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/tachyarrhythmias-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed September 10, 2021.

Ventricular tachycardia—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/ventricular-tachycardia-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed September 10, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA  Last Updated: 9/10/2021