In WPW, an abnormal accessory (extra) pathway (electrical circuit) runs between the atria and ventricles so the electrical signal arrives at the ventricle sooner than normal. This will produce characteristic changes on the electrocardiogram (EKG).
Many people with WPW have no symptoms and no episodes of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). However, about 1/3 of asymptomatic patients may eventually develop symptoms during their lifetime. Most infants presenting SVT do not have recurrent SVT for many years. However, 1/3 will have recurring symptoms by age 8. Patients older than 5 years of age presenting with SVT will have recurrent symptoms in over 75% of cases.
Patients with WPW will undergo a complete cardiovascular evaluation including more tests of the heart?s electrical system. Medications can often prevent recurrent episodes of SVT.
Vagal maneuvers such as the following may be used to terminate SVT:
- Quickly drinking ice-cold water
- Straining by sealing the nose and closing your mouth while trying to breath out hard
- Using tension by pushing hard against a wall and holding your breath
- Diving reflex (immersion of face into ice cold water)
- Placing an ice cold cloth on the face
Patients with prolonged episodes of SVT may develop symptoms (see Supraventricular Tachycardia). Risk of sudden cardiac death is very low, about 0.1% or .0002/patient/year. Several risk factors have been identified including multiple accessory pathways, fainting spells, recurrent SVT, underlying congenital heart defects or cardiomyopathy. An electrophysiologic study (EP testing) usually is recommended, especially in symptomatic and older patients or those with risk factors. EP testing may help identify other risk factors and is performed prior to endocardial catheter ablation.
Children's Heart Specialists, PSC is committed to provide comprehensive pediatric cardiac services to infants, children and young adults. We strive to insure the highest quality in non-invasive cardiovascular testing. Our medical staff is committed to being board certified in pediatric cardiology and adult congenital heart disease.
Our goal is to provide the highest quality of care with compassion and respect to our patients and their families.