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Are my children at risk of developing WPW syndrome? Should I have them evaluated with EKG?

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Cardiologist, Interventional
Practicing since : 1996
Answered : 192 Questions
I was diagnosed with WPW syndrome about 20 years ago when I was 21. I was symptomatic for years in childhood and my teens with a racing heartbeat, but just thought I was hyperventilating. An internist did check me out, said I had a XXXXXXX wave on my resting EKG, said it was probably a hemi block and not to worry about it until I was 40. However, a few weeks later I went into the ER with SVT at 280 BPM. They told me I had WPW syndrome, referred me to an EP and did an ablation and it was successful - no problems in the 20 years since.

My question is - are my children at risk of developing WPW? I had them each undergo an EKG at around a 1 year old and there were no problems with either of them. I haven't had any EKG's done on them since and my son is now 8 and my daughter is 10. Although my daughter did have a surgery at XXXXXXX Children's to remove a cyst over her eye when she was 2 and I imagine they did a pre-op ekg then. There were no problems then either.

Should I have them evaluated from time to time with an EKG? Or would it have shown up when they had the EKG when they were 1. They don't have any symptoms or anything. When I mentioned it to their pediatritian he scared me and said they had a 50 % chance of inheriting it and he is surprised they don't have it. I don't want to scare them with unnecessary testing, but I want to do what I should. Was the ekg at 1 year enough to rule it out? Or do I need to follow up with an EKG on them?

Thanks for your help.
Posted Tue, 1 May 2012 in Hypertension and Heart Disease
Answered by Dr. Raja Sekhar Varma 16 hours later

Thank you for your query.

WPW syndrome refers to a condition where there is an accessory electrical pathway connecting the receiving chambers of the heart (atria) to the ventricles. Usually, in normal people, there is only one electrical connection between the two (bundle of His). The ECG changes and abnormal rhythms are due to this extra, abnormal pathway.

Usually, WPW syndrome is not familial.

Familial (hereditary) WPW syndrome only forms a small fraction of the total number of cases with this condition. Again, the familial WPW syndrome also has other features like ventricular hypertrophy, other conduction disturbances, etc. It is this familial syndrome that has an inheritance pattern where 50% of the children may be affected. Since it is of an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance, the manifestations may be seen only after adolescence.

At this juncture, I would not worry about your children having WPW syndrome, since the ECGs do not show any changes at present and they are otherwise asymptomatic.

It may be advisable to have the ECGs repeated when they are around 15-18 years of age and again when they are around 30 years or so. Of course, if there is any history of palpitations at any time, they will need to be tested further.

I hope I have clarified your query. Feel free to get back to me for any further answers that you may need.

With regards,
Dr RS Varma
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Are my children at risk of developing WPW syndrome? Should I have them evaluated with EKG? 2 hours later
Thank you so much. That is comforting information. I will take your suggestions and have them get an ekg in their mid teens and again in adulthood. I appreciate your help.

Answered by Dr. Raja Sekhar Varma 4 hours later
Thank you for the feedback. I wish you all the best for a healthy and happy life ahead.
With regards,
Dr RS Varma
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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