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Cleveland Clinic Children's doctor examining child's breath sounds with a stethoscope.

Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) Syndrome

You just learned that learn your child’s heart beats too fast. Is it serious? Are they in danger? Who can help them?

Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a rare congenital (born with it) condition that causes the electrical signals in your child’s heart to travel a different way. This change can cause an arrhythmia, making their heart beat too fast.

Cleveland Clinic Children’s cardiology experts specialize in diagnosing WPW and other congenital heart conditions in children and young adults. We get the answers you need about your child’s heart right away — so we can create a personalized care plan that matches their specific needs. We also give your child (and your family) the caring support and guidance you deserve as you move through this diagnosis and all that follows.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic Children’s for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome Care?

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Specialized knowledge:

Our expert pediatric cardiology providers have advanced training and years of experience in treating congenital heart conditions like WPW. They use the latest treatments to diagnose and care for your child.

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Personalized care:

We offer heart care from before birth through adulthood. So if your child’s cardiac needs continue into adolescence, we can help them move from their pediatric providers to adult care at Cleveland Clinic. And they’ll get the same great, personalized experience. Meet our team.

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Caring approach:

Your family plays a big part in your child’s healthcare and well-being. That’s why we use a family-centered approach in all we do. Your child’s care team listens to your concerns, answers your questions and keeps you in the loop at each step — from diagnosis to recovery and beyond.

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Innovation and research:

Cleveland Clinic Children’s never stops searching for the best ways to treat complex heart conditions. Our pediatric cardiovascular team uses advanced imaging techniques and technologies, like 3D print models, to make sure treatments meet your child’s unique needs.

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Virtual visits:

Not all appointments need to be in person. Our virtual visits are a great alternative for quick check-ins and follow-ups with your child’s provider. All you need is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or computer.

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National recognition:

U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks Cleveland Clinic Children’s a top hospital in the nation. Newsweek has also named Cleveland Clinic a top hospital in the world.

Diagnosing Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome at Cleveland Clinic Children’s

If your child is born with WPW, a rare congenital heart condition, it means they have an extra wire (or pathway) connecting the top of their heart (atria) to the bottom of their heart (ventricles). These extra wires can conduct electricity faster than the normal wire (AV node) and in both directions, which results in short-circuiting. And that makes their heart beat really fast all of a sudden (supraventricular tachycardia or SVT).  

Your child may not have any symptoms at first. The most common WPW symptom is heart palpitations. Your child may also have:

  • Chest pain.
  • Dizziness and fainting.
  • Shortness of breath.

In rare cases, a child may go into an irregular fast heart rhythm (pre-excited atrial fibrillation), which can result in extremely fast heart rates, causing dizziness, fainting and in extreme cases, cardiac arrest (when the heart stops beating).

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome symptoms tend to appear as children get older. But some babies may show signs of the condition. Your baby may look bluish (tachypnea). You may also have trouble feeding your baby.

What to expect at your first visit

Symptoms play a big part in confirming a diagnosis. Your child’s healthcare provider will ask you what symptoms they’re having, how long they’ve had them and how they’re feeling. They’ll also do a physical exam and listen to your child’s heartbeat.

And to better understand your child’s heart rate changes, they may order tests like:

It’s natural for your child to feel a little nervous about having tests and treatment. But they don’t have to worry. Our caring child life specialists are here to explain what’s going to happen in a way they understand — through play, games and talking with each other. And they’ll share ways you can help ease your child’s worries at home, too.

Meet Our Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome Team

We’ll choose your child’s pediatric care team based on their specific diagnosis and needs. Working together to confirm a diagnosis and offer highly personalized treatment, this team may include:


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Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome Treatment at Cleveland Clinic Children’s

Your child may not need treatment, especially if they don’t have ongoing symptoms. But if they have a constantly rapid heart rate — and dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath — their provider may recommend one or a combination of treatments, like:

Vagal maneuvers

If your child is old enough (and their providers feel this treatment is right for them), we’ll teach them to use vagal maneuvers. These can activate the vagus nerve to help slow their heart rate:


Your child’s care team may recommend cardioversion to get their heart back to beating at a normal rhythm. Chemical cardioversion uses medications given as a pill or through an IV (in a vein in their arm) to slow their heart rate. Electrical cardioversion uses a device to send a shock to their heart when they need it.

Catheter ablation

Our pediatric cardiology experts use catheter ablation, a type of ablation therapy, to "destroy" the abnormal pathway. Either heat (radiofrequency ablation) or cold (cryoablation) can help disrupt the electrical signals causing irregular heartbeats. We’ll put catheters (long, thin, flexible tubes) through the vessels in your child’s groin and into their heart to find the abnormal pathway and destroy it. Most children go home the same day.

Living with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

Treatment like radiofrequency ablation often solves the problem. If not, your child’s provider may recommend managing symptoms with vagal maneuvers, and/or medications. If your child doesn’t have symptoms, we may recommend watchful management, where we keep a close eye on your child with regular appointments. If new symptoms come up or existing ones get worse, we can treat them quickly.

Taking the Next Step

When your child has rapid heartbeats, you may wonder how to help them. But arrhythmias caused by Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome are treatable. And the pediatric cardiology providers at Cleveland Clinic Children’s are here to help. We’ll work with you and your child to pinpoint what’s causing their too-fast heart rate. And we’ll build the best treatment plan for their needs. So they can get back to being a kid.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic Children’s Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome experts is easy. We care about kids.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic Children’s Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome experts is easy. We care about kids.

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