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Alternative namesPreexcitation syndrome; WPW
DefinitionThis syndrome involves episodes of rapid heart rate ( tachycardia ) caused by abnormal electrical pathways (circuits) in the heart.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Normally, the electrical signals which coordinate heartbeat travel through the atria (the top two chambers of the heart) to the ventricles (the bottom two chambers). These signals travel through the atrioventricular (AV) node, which is the electrical pathway connecting the two portions.
In people with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, there is an extra (accessory) atrioventricular conduction pathway. This extra pathway bypasses the normal conduction delay of the AV node, and it may cause a form of "supraventricular tachycardia."
This is a rapid heart rate initiated above the ventricles. The type of supraventricular tachycardia experienced by people with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is called "re-entry." The extra-electrical pathway in Wolff-Parkinson-White can often be located precisely.
The frequency of the episodes of rapid heart rate varies from person to person. Patients with Wolff-Parkinson-White may have isolated episodes of rapid heart rate, frequent episodes (occurring once or twice a week), or they may never have symptoms. In the latter case, the condition is often discovered accidentally when a physician is reviewing an ECG requested for some other purpose.
Signs and testsAn examination during the tachyarrhythmia will reveal a heart rate greater than 150 (normal is 60 to 100 beats per minute), and blood pressure that is normal or low. If a tachyarrhythmia is not present, the physical exam may be completely normal.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome may be revealed by the following tests:
The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms by reducing the episodes of tachycardia (rapid heart rate).
Expectations (prognosis)The outcome varies. Using a catheter to deliver radiofrequency waves to destroy the abnormal pathway usually cures Wolff-Parkinson-White. This is currently the preferred therapeutic approach to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome in the United States.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if symptoms indicating Wolff-Parkinson-White may be present, or if you have this disorder and symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment.
Update Date: 6/4/2002Riti Patel, M.D., Department of Cardiology, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT