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What is WPW?
What causes WPW?
What are the symptoms?
How is WPW diagnosed?
How is it treated?
How to find a doctor if you have WPW?
What is Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)?
Normally, the heartbeat begins at the sinoatrial (SA) node, located in your right atrium
. When the SA node fires, electrical activity spreads through the right and left atria, causing them to contract. The impulses travel to the atrioventricular (AV) node, which is the bridge that allows the impulses to go from the atria to the ventricles. The impulse then travels through the walls of the ventricles, causing them to contract. The heart’s regular pattern of electrical impulses causes the heart to fill with blood and contract in a normal fashion.
Normal heart rhythm
WPW is a form of supraventricular tachycardia
(fast heart rate
originating above the ventricles).
When you have WPW, along with your normal conduction pathway, you have extra pathways called accessory pathways. They look like normal heart muscle, but they may:
conduct impulses faster than normal
conduct impulses in both directions
The impulses travel through the extra pathway (short cut) as well as the normal AV-HIS Purkinje system. The impulses can travel around the heart very quickly, in a circular pattern, causing the heart to beat unusually fast. This is called re-entry tachycardia.
Re-entry arrythmias occur in about 50 percent of people with WPW; some may have atrial fibrillation (a common irregular heart rhythm distinguished by disorganized, rapid, and irregular heart rhythm). The greatest concern for people with WPW is the possibility of having atrial fibrillation with a fast ventricular response that worsens to ventricular fibrillation
, a life-threatening arrhythmia
Most people experience symptoms between the ages of 11 and 50 years old.
Symptoms of WPW may include one or more of the following:
heart palpitations – a sudden pounding, fluttering or
racing feeling in your chest
dizziness – feeling lightheaded or faint
shortness of breath
rarely, cardiac arrest
Some people have WPW without any symptoms at all.
Treatment depends on the type of arrhythmias, the frequency and the associated symptoms.
If you have no symptoms, you may not require treatment. Your doctor may choose to have regular follow-up without treatment.
A variety of drugs are available to treat arrhythmias. Because everyone is different, it may take trials of several medications and doses to find the one that works best for you.