Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is an abnormally fast heart rate of over 100 heartbeats a minute. SVT usually refers to regular fast heart rhythms, as opposed to AF (atrial fibrillation) which is irregular. There are 3 different types of treatment for SVT. Usually the first manoeuvre to be used is the Valsalva manoeuvre. This is intended to slow down the electrical impulses in the heart by stimulating a nerve called the vagus nerve. The Valsalva manoeuvre usually involves holding your nose, closing your mouth and trying to exhale hard, while straining as if you were on the toilet. There are also anti-arrhythmic drugs such as beta-blockers, verapamil, flecainide etc. However, these have varying side-effects. The third and, most likely, the most successful method is catheter ablation for SVT. Ablation involves a procedure where fine wires are advanced from veins at the top of the leg to the heart. Pacing the heart can then induce SVT. Heat applied from the tip of one of the wires causes a tiny area of localized tissue damage (the tissue is cauterized, or more properly ‘ablated’). This destroys one limb of the abnormal circuit and so cures the arrhythmia.
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