Ventricular tachycardia is an abnormal heart rhythm that happens when you have abnormal electrical signals in your heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). These keep normal heartbeat signals from getting through and make your heart beat so fast that it can’t pump enough blood to your body. Treatments include ablation and an implanted defibrillator.
Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rate higher than 120 beats per minute that starts in your heart’s two lower chambers (ventricles), rather than from the normal electrical pathway.
A normal resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.
During an episode of ventricular tachycardia, your heart is beating so fast that:
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Yes, it is serious and requires urgent treatment. If ventricular tachycardia lasts more than 30 seconds (called sustained ventricular tachycardia), it can lead to ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac death.
Both are abnormal heart rhythms, but ventricular fibrillation is more severe. With ventricular tachycardia, fast heartbeats keep your heart from sending enough blood to your tissues and cells.
When your heart muscles are fibrillating (twitching), they aren’t pumping blood to your body at all. This causes sudden cardiac death.
Yes, it can go away in some cases. It can last just a few seconds before your heart rhythm goes back to normal.
You’re more likely to have this condition if you:
When you have ventricular tachycardia, less blood than normal goes to your cells and tissues. This is because your fast heartbeats don’t allow enough time for your heart chambers to fill up before the next beat. It’s like a bus that stops so briefly at a bus stop that it leaves people behind because there isn’t time for everyone to board.
Seek emergency help immediately to avoid the risk of cardiac arrest and death if you have these symptoms of a potentially fatal ventricular tachycardia:
When you have abnormal electrical signals in your ventricles (lower chambers of your heart), they get in the way of normal signals from your sinoatrial node that usually controls your heart rate. This creates a heart rate so fast that your heart’s chambers don’t have enough time to fill between beats.
Most people with ventricular tachycardia have another heart problem that caused it, such as:
Ventricular tachycardia causes unrelated to your heart include:
Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Ischemic heart disease is the most common cause. This is also known as coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease. It means your heart muscle can’t get enough blood and oxygen because of blockages in the coronary arteries. This usually happens because of atherosclerosis.
To diagnose ventricular tachycardia, your healthcare provider will:
An electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), which records your heart’s electrical activity, is the most common test for diagnosing ventricular tachycardia.
Other tests may include:
You need treatment for ventricular tachycardia when you have symptoms or when you have it for more than 30 seconds (with or without symptoms).
Treatment for ventricular tachycardia involves managing any disease that causes the condition. These treatments may improve the abnormal heart rhythm or prevent it from returning.
In emergency situations, treatments for ventricular tachycardia may include:
Nonemergency treatment for ventricular tachycardia usually includes:
Although ablation of ventricular tachycardia has a long history of safety and success, complications can sometimes happen. Complications may include:
You can expect to stay at least one night in the hospital after ventricular tachycardia ablation. Usually, you can go back to regular activities within a few days of leaving the hospital. However, you shouldn’t do heavy physical tasks or workouts for at least three days, or as directed by your healthcare provider.
Avoiding the heart problems that cause ventricular tachycardia may lower your risk of getting it.
You can protect yourself from coronary artery disease, the most common cause of ventricular tachycardia, in these ways:
Your prognosis depends on how bad your ventricular tachycardia is and whether you have an additional heart issue. The prognosis is worse if your left ventricle doesn’t work well.
It depends on the underlying cause. For some people, radiofrequency catheter ablation completely cures the abnormal rhythm, and no other treatment is needed. Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), while not a cure, are highly effective at treating life-threatening ventricular tachycardia by delivering rapid pacing or a shock to restore normal rhythm.
To care for yourself with ventricular tachycardia, you can:
It’s important to keep your appointments for regular follow-ups. Your provider will want to:
Call 911 if you have these symptoms:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Being aware of your heart rate and how you’re feeling can help you to know when to seek care. Prompt treatment is important for ventricular tachycardia, so don’t delay getting help for yourself or a loved one. After you leave the hospital, be sure to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Keep taking any medicines they prescribed for you and start putting changes in place for a healthier way of life. Be sure to go to all follow-up appointments, especially if you received a medical device as part of your treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/12/2022.
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