Ventricular tachycardia
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Ventricular tachycardia, also known as VT or “V-Tach”, is a condition where the heart undergoes a series of rapid heartbeat rhythm. Diagnosis of this condition may sometimes be difficult as classifying irregular heart rhythms can be difficult and may be confused for other conditions such as supraventricular tachycardia. But VT is defined in conditions where there are at least 3 beats coming from either ventricle of the heart at rates over 100 beats per minute. This heart rate may span from 120 to 300 beats per minute. This rhythm can be felt in short bursts or as a sustained rhythm. VT can be life-threatening as it may lead to ventricular fibrillation or the rapid irregular trembling and beating of the heart which can cause cardiac arrest, then eventually death. Rarely though, some cases of VT may be benign, especially when experienced in younger patients.


VT sufferers often have palpitations as a result of their rapid heartbeat. Other symptoms include chest pains, fainting, dizziness, and shortness of breath. They may also experience a drop in blood pressure as the heart beats so rapidly it does not deliver enough blood to the body. This also results in a rapid but weakened pulse. However, symptoms may appear irregularly, and there are cases where symptoms seems absent, even at heart rates of 150 to 200 beats per minute.

An electrocardiogram is the best way to determine if these symptoms really are of VT, but it needs to be performed during an episode, a portable ECG may be recommended by the doctor in order to obtain a reading of the contractions. The doctors can then further analyze the type and severity of VT based on the readings from the ECG.


Ventricular tachycardia can be classified in many ways. First, by observing the ECG readings of an episode of VT, it can be classified as either monomorphic or polymorphic. Monomorphic ventricular tachycardia is characterized by all of the beats matching each other in the ECG reading. On the other hand, polymorphic ventricular tachycardia is characterized by changes in each beat that often cycles as the readings progress.

VT may also be categorized by the length of each episode. If the rhythm of ventricular tachycardia stops by itself in less than 30 seconds, then it will be considered a non-sustained ventricular tachycardia. When it lasts beyond 30 seconds, even if it terminates on its own, it is a sustained ventricular tachycardia.

A third way to categorize VT is by its symptoms. Pulse-less ventricular tachycardia happens when the heart becomes unable to pump blood due to the erratic rhythm, as if a cardiac arrest has occurred. Often, a pulse cannot be observed and this condition can be life-threatening. There is also a rare type of VT known as idiopathic ventricular tachycardia. This condition is when VT occurs in normal hearts. Often the rates of their heart beat increase but an increase in risk of cardiac death is not observed. It is often occurs on younger individual and may be a congenital condition.
Ventricular Tachycardia
Image: Ventricular Tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia can occur due to the way electrical signals that trigger heart beats are disrupted. Often this is due to a complication of a previous case of heart attack. Heart attacks can leave portions of the heart muscle to scar and making it unable to conduct electrical signals. This can cause the signals to create a new circuit around the scar and cause rapid contraction. Other heart conditions which may increase the risk of VT include cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, valvular heart disease and congenital heart disease. However, VT can still occur in the absence of other heart conditions. Other heart rhythm medication used to treat other conditions may trigger VT as well. Electrolyte imbalance in the body, such as a low potassium rate may also trigger VT episodes.


Treatment for ventricular tachycardia primarily deals with stopping an episode of irregular heart beats and preventing future episodes form occurring. To stop an episode of VT, particularly in an emergency situation, defibrillators are used to deliver an electrical shock across the patient’s heart to normalize heartbeat. This is usually done to pulse-less VT patients, as the potential for sudden cardiac death is greater. It is usually done to unconscious or sedated patients due to the great discomfort the shock may cause. Anti-arrhythmic drugs may also be used for emergency and long term treatment of VT. The use of an implanted device known as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or ICD is now being administered by doctors. This device is attached to the heart with wires and when it senses a VT episode it automatically releases an electrical shock in an attempt to stop the episode. This aims to reduce dependence on anti-arrhythmic drugs but they may be still needed to stop the ICD from firing too much.

Another surgical treatment that may be used is catheter ablation. An electrode catheter is inserted from the groin and works its way to the veins in the heart. The catheter then emits radio waves to destroy parts of the heart that causes VT. The treatment is done normally using only local anesthetic to numb the groin and is done while the patient is fully awake as he cannot feel the catheter move in his body.

People suffering from ventricular tachycardia may benefit from a low sodium and low cholesterol diet as these help ease circulation problems by maintaining blood pressure and keeping blood vessels clear. Proper diet may also help balance any deficiencies or excesses in blood chemistry which can affect VT.


However, many cases of ventricular tachycardia will have to remain reliant to the treatments mentioned above as the initial VT episode may not be easily preventable. Correct treatment of other existing heart conditions may also help reduce the incidence of VT. Also, careful monitoring of physical activity may be able to prevent sudden episodes of VT. The doctor may be able to help determine the intensity of physical activity you may perform.
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