Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is a type of arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) in which the heart beats very rapidly (about 160-220 times per minute). PSVT starts in heart tissue above the ventricles, and occurs in sudden episodes that can last minutes or hours.
PSVT can be the result of another heart condition but is most often caused by abnormal electrical pathways in the heart. It is most common among young people and infants.
In addition to heart palpitations, or feeling like the heart is racing, symptoms of PSVT may include shortness of breath, anxiety, chest pain, rapid pulse, dizziness, or fainting.
Smoking and the use of alcohol, caffeine, and drugs increase the risk for PSVT.
To slow down the heartbeat, people with PSVT can try splashing ice water on their face, coughing while leaning over, and straining as if having a bowel movement (Valsalva maneuver). If symptoms are severe or the episode lasts more than 20 minutes, emergency treatment such as drug injections or electrical shock may be necessary.
Long-term solutions for people with recurring PSVT can include a procedure called cardiac ablation, medications, pacemakers, or even surgery.
While PSVT can be scary and uncomfortable, it usually isn't considered dangerous for people with otherwise healthy hearts.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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