Ventricular tachycardia is a rapid heart rate. It begins in your heart’s lower chambers, or ventricles. Experts usually define ventricular tachycardia as three or more heartbeats in a row, at a rate of more than 120 beats a minute. If ventricular tachycardia lasts for more than a few seconds at a time, it can become life threatening.
Ventricular tachycardia is caused when the electrical system of the heart triggers the ventricles to beat too rapidly. Abnormal heart valves, enlarged heart, weak heart muscles, coronary artery disease, or other health conditions can interfere with the heart’s normal electrical system and result in tachycardia.
Fast, regular beating of your ventricles describes episodes of ventricular tachycardia. Sometimes, it lasts for only a few seconds. Longer episodes are dangerous. The rapid heartbeat does not allow enough time for your heart to fill with blood before it contracts again. This can impair blood flow to the rest of your body.
Other physical symptoms include:
- Cardiac arrest
If you do not have underlying heart disease, are not experiencing bothersome symptoms, and your episodes of ventricular tachycardia last 30 seconds or fewer, you may not need medication. If you do have symptoms, along with short episodes of ventricular tachycardia, your health care provider might prescribe beta blockers. These are drugs that help to slow down your heartbeat.
Longer episodes of ventricular tachycardia can be dangerous. If you have an episode of rapid heartbeat that is persistent, or causes you to pass out, your health care provider may give you an anti-arrhythmic drug intravenously to stop the episode quickly. To prevent future problems, he or she may recommend an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. This is a device that uses electrical pulses to prevent and treat abnormal heart rhythms. Your doctor will place this device inside your chest or abdomen.