Ventricular Tachycardia

At the University of Maryland Heart and Vascular Center, we offer comprehensive care for ventricular tachycardia and all types of arrhythmias, including ventricular fibrillation. Our innovative treatment approaches include some of the most advanced options available today, including 3D imaging for ventricular tachycardia. 

V-Tach and V-Fib Causes

There are a number of potential causes of ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation:

  • Heart attack 
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart muscle weakening
  • Heart surgery complications
  • Inability of heart to pump blood (heart failure)
  • Certain medications
  • Certain types of valve disease (v-tach only)
  • Sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease (v-tach only)
  • Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart wall’s middle layer (v-tach only)
  • Changes in blood chemistry (v-tach only)
  • Electrical shock or other heart injury (v-fib only)

Most people with ventricular fibrillation have no history of heart disease, but do have factors that increase their risk:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure 

Untreated ventricular tachycardia can also degenerate into ventricular fibrillation. For an accurate, expert diagnosis, it is important to see a heart team with extensive experience diagnosing these types of arrhythmias. We use noninvasive tests and procedures to give you the accurate diagnosis you need. Learn more about cardiac diagnosis.

Ventricular Tachycardia and Fibrillation Symptoms

Some cases of ventricular tachycardia do not cause serious problems, while others make the heart pump before it has filled with the blood needed for the rest of the body. The severity depends on whether other heart problems are present and how fast the heart beats.

In ventricular fibrillation, the heart’s lower chambers quiver and fail to pump blood for the body — a potentially fatal problem.

Symptoms of the two arrhythmias include:

  • Chest pain (angina)

  • Dizziness

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fainting (syncope)

  • Lightheadedness

Sometimes ventricular tachycardia does not cause symptoms. At other times, symptoms can start and stop suddenly. If ventricular fibrillation causes collapse or unconsciousness, symptoms usually appear beforehand, anywhere from within minutes to an hour.

More serious symptoms like chest pain and collapse/unconsciousness are an emergency — call 911. Otherwise, make an appointment to see a doctor, and remember that other conditions can cause similar symptoms, too. 

Ventricular Tachycardia and Fibrillation Treatment

More severe and sudden cases of ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation are often treated by emergency responders or in the emergency room. But we can also provide effective measures to manage or cure the disorders:

  • Medications: Drugs to control the heart beat and heart function can help some patients.

  • Catheter ablation (v-tach only): A minimally invasive procedure using heat or extreme cold can help reduce errant signaling. While it does not usually cure ventricular tachycardia, it often provides better management than medications. It also minimizes or avoids shocks to the heart if a patient needs an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). Learn more about catheter ablation and 3D imaging and V-tach ablation.

  • Implantable device: An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) stops the arrhythmia with an electric shock. Learn more about ICDs and pacemakers.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 1-800-492-5538.

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