What are the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia?
During an episode of ventricular tachycardia, the heart is beating so fast that the blood pressure drops so the heart cannot pump enough oxygen to every part of the body, and this is what causes symptoms. Although some people with ventricular tachycardia do not experience any symptoms, the most common symptoms are dizziness, lightheadedness, palpitations, shortness of breath or chest pain. When the heart rate is extremely high or the ventricular tachycardia persists for more than a few seconds, it can cause fainting, unconsciousness or cardiac arrest and death.
If you experience unexplained fainting, diziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or palpitations, you should be evaluated for possible ventricular tachycardia. Chest pain, difficulty breathing and a rapid pulse are urgent symptoms of a potentially fatal ventricular tachycardia, and you must seek emergency help immediately to avoid the risk of cardiac arrest and death.
How is ventricular tachycardia diagnosed?
Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and medical history. You will also have testing to determine if you have ventricular tachycardia. The most common test used to diagnose ventricular tachycardia is an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG). An EKG records your heart’s electrical activity. Electrodes (small sticky patches) are placed on your chest and arms to record the heart’s rhythm, and the pattern prints on graph paper. Your doctor may also want to track your heart rhythm at home. If so, you will wear a Holter monitor at home for 24 to 48 hours.
Normal Heart Rhythm recorded on EKG
Ventricular Tachycardia recorded on EKG
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist to electrophysiology testing. During the test, catheters (long, thin tubes) with electrodes are inserted through the veins at the groin and placed directly in the heart. The electrical activity in different parts of the heart is recorded so your doctor can create a map of the heart’s electrical impulses and see where the electrical problem starts.