Arrhythmias Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

What is Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a conduction disorder that can make your heart beat too quickly or with an irregular rhythm. This is called an arrhythmia, and it can be life-threatening.

Electrical signals in your heart usually travel along certain pathways to tell the heart to beat regularly. People who have WPW syndrome are born with an extra electrical pathway that changes the way these signals travel. WPW syndrome is a rare condition, and most people who have this condition do not have any other heart problems.

What causes it?

WPW syndrome is a congenital condition, which means that you are born with it. It is caused by problems with how your heart develops before birth. This condition can be inherited . You have a higher risk of having WPW syndrome if you have a close relative with this condition. Physical activity, such as intense exercise, and stress can raise your risk of an arrhythmia and cardiac arrest.

What are the symptoms?

If you have WPW syndrome, you may not have any symptoms of an arrhythmia. If you do have symptoms, you may notice that they change over time. For example, you may develop symptoms, or your symptoms may go away, as you get older. Sometimes the first sign of WPW is a life-threatening arrhythmia or sudden cardiac arrest.

Your symptoms may include:

  • Palpitations, or feeling your heart beat fast
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and fainting

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor may ask you to get tested for WPW syndrome if you have atrial fibrillation or a family history of WPW syndrome. You may need to be screened for WPW syndrome if you are going to play competitive sports.

Your doctor will use your medical history, family history, physical exam, and heart tests to diagnose WPW syndrome. Sometimes WPW syndrome is diagnosed during a routine heart test. Common heart tests to diagnose WPW include an EKG and a Holter monitor. You may also need a stress test to measure your heart rhythm while your heart is working hard and beating fast.

You may also need an electrophysiology study to see whether you are at risk of more serious health problems.

How is it treated and managed?

Catheter ablation is the most common treatment for people who have WPW syndrome and symptoms of an arrhythmia. This procedure can cure WPW syndrome in most people. If this treatment works for you, you can go back to your normal activities.

You may need one of more of the following treatments for an irregular heartbeat:

  • Medicines that can control or prevent a fast heartbeat
  • Cardioversion, which uses an electrical shock to your heart to restore its rhythm

If you have no symptoms of arrhythmias, you may not need any treatment. You may need regular checkups to check for a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Tell your doctor right away if you have any symptoms.

What happens if it is not treated?

If left untreated, WPW syndrome can cause the following problems:

  • Heart failure
  • Serious arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation
  • Cardiac arrest, which can be fatal and is more common in boys and men and in people who have other heart conditions

Visit Living With Arrhythmias to learn how to prevent these serious conditions.

Last updated on