What are the Symptoms?

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, dizziness, 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 care immediately to avoid the risk of cardiac arrest and death.

How is Ventricular Tachycardia Diagnosed?

The most common first step in diagnosing ventricular tachycardia is an electrocardiogram (ECG/ EKG). An EKG is a device used to record on graph paper the electrical activity of the heart. The picture is drawn by a computer from information supplied by electrodes (small sticky patches) that are placed on your chest and arms to record the heart’s rhythm. The doctor will perform an EKG in the office, but you also may need to wear a portable EKG unit (Holter monitor) at home for 24 to 48 hours so the doctor can better evaluate your heart’s rhythm.

Another tool to help diagnose ventricular tachycardia is electrophysiology testing. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist to have this procedure done. During the test, catheters with electrodes are inserted through the veins at the groin and placed directly in the heart to study the electrical activity of different regions of the heart. The doctor can then create a map of the heart’s electrical impulses and determine precisely where the abnormalities originate.

Your doctor will diagnose ventricular tachycardia based on the results from these tests, your clinical signs and symptoms, and medical history.