What is paroxysmal atrial tachycardia?

Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia is a form of arrhythmia or erratic heartbeat. It is important to note that paroxysmal is an occurrence of arrhythmia where it starts and ends abruptly. This involves the atrial or upper chambers of the heart where it beats abnormally rapid.

Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia causes the heart rate to increase up to 130-230 beats per minute (bpm). Babies and children generally have higher heart rates than adults. If an infant or child has paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, the heart rate is higher than 220 bpm. This is the most prevalent form of tachycardia among babies and children. In most instances, the condition is not dangerous but can cause discomfort.

What are the causes?

paroxysmal-atrial-tachycardia

In most cases of paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, treatment is not needed. The doctor might suggest treatment or medications if the episodes occur often or last for long periods of time.

Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia arises if the electrical signals that originate in the atria fire erratically. This affects the electrical signals transmitted from the sinoatrial node or the natural pacemaker of the heart.

The heart rate becomes rapid which prevents the heart from having sufficient time to load with blood prior to pumping it out to the entire body. As an outcome, the body will not receive enough oxygen or blood.

Risk factors

  • Women are at higher risk than men.
  • In most cases, the emotional health might also be a contributing factor as well.
  • In case the individual is physical exhausted or have anxiety, he/she is at high risk.
  • The risk is also increased if consuming large amounts of caffeine or alcoholic beverages daily.
  • Having heart conditions such as a history of heart attacks as well as mitral valve disease as well as children with congenital heart disease

Indications of paroxysmal atrial tachycardia

Some individuals do not have any indications. In some cases, symptoms might arise such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Breathlessness
  • Palpitations
  • Angina or chest pain

Management

In most cases of paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, treatment is not needed. The doctor might suggest treatment or medications if the episodes occur often or last for long periods of time.

Vagal maneuvers slows down the heart rate by stimulating the vagus nerve. The doctor might suggest one of these maneuvers during an episode:

  • Apply gentle pressure over closed eyelids
  • Apply gentle pressure on the neck where the carotid artery branches
  • Immersing the body or face in cool water
  • Valsalva maneuver or pressing the nostrils together while exhaling via the nose

Medications

If episodes of the condition occur and the maneuvers could not restore the normal heart rate, medications are given by the doctor such as flecainide or propafenone. The doctor might administer a shot in the clinic or prescribe a pill that can be taken during an episode.

Lifestyle modifications

The doctor might suggest limiting the intake of caffeine and alcohol as well as cessation of tobacco smoking. In addition, getting enough rest is also vital.

Catheter ablation

In rare and extreme cases, catheter ablation might be suggested by the doctor. This is a non-surgical procedure where tissue in an area in the heart responsible for the increased heart rate is taken out.

During the procedure, a catheter is placed against the trigger area. Radiofrequency energy is transmitted via the catheter to generate enough heat to destroy the trigger area.

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