What is paroxysmal tachycardia?

Paroxysmal tachycardia is a common and usually harmless type of rapid heartbeat. It mostly affects younger people.

The rapid heartbeat starts very suddenly, with the pulse reaching 180 to 200 beats per minute. But it usually only lasts a few seconds or minutes. After that, the heartbeat returns to normal.

A healthy heart beats in time to its main pacemaker: the sinus node in the right atrium. At rest, it sends out 60 to 80 electrical signals per minute, which spread across both atria.

The AV node receives the individual signals and sends them along the conduction system, eventually causing the ventricles to contract.

In paroxysmal tachycardia, there's usually a problem with the way signals are passed on in the AV node. It's often triggered by an extra heartbeat.

Instead of simply passing across the AV node, the signal then circles around in it. This causes the AV node to send a lot of signals to the ventricles within a short space of time.

The heart suddenly starts beating very fast, until the signal stops circling on its own.

The symptoms may include a pounding heart, chest pain and shortness of breath. This type of rapid heartbeat is usually harmless, though, and doesn't need to be treated.

Information on many other topics at: https://www.informedhealth.org/

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Updated on October 4, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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