A normal heart is made up of four chambers, two for the upper chambers (atria), and two for the lower chambers (ventricles). The tissue in the right atrium (sinus node) controls the rhythm of the heart. Heartbeats are experienced through the electrical impulses or signals that the sinus node creates. The electrical signals travel and cause the muscle to contract, which brings forth the pumping of blood into the ventricles. They come to the atrioventricular node, a cluster of cells designated as the only pathway for the electrical impulses to move from the atria to the ventricles. This node slows down the electrical signal before it reaches the ventricles. Since the atrioventricular node slows down the electrical impulses, it permits the ventricles to allow blood to fill in. When it reaches the ventricles, the muscle contractions are made by the electrical signals that pump blood into the rest of the body.
A heart with the Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome syndrome contains an extra electrical pathway connected to the atria and ventricles, which cause the electrical impulses to access the heart. Because of the extra pathway, it creates trouble for the ventricles. This other pathway can also send back electrical impulses to the heart to the atria, which contradicts the heart’s synchronization, leading to a change in the heart’s rhythm. It is also called “arrhythmia,” and the most common type of arrhythmia, the paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. Some experience the less common type of arrhythmia, “atrial fibrillation,” wherein the patient has an irregular heartbeat.
These following tests are likely for your doctor to suggest to diagnose the WPW Syndrome:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) is the test wherein there are sensors attached to your chest and arms used to record electrical signals. The doctor will look for patterns to see if you have an extra electrical pathway.
- Holter Monitor is a portable ECG device that you can use at home and not with a doctor. It records your heart’s activity, and it monitors your heart if it beats too fast. With our technology today, you can have a Holter monitor through smartwatches.
- Electrophysiological testing is a test conducted using catheters (tubes) tipped with electrodes placed through your blood vessels to the parts of your heart. They map out where the electrical impulses go, and they identify if you have an extra electrical pathway.
Some patients aren’t troubled to live with WPW syndrome, but some patients experience severe problems. If the syndrome is left without treatment, and especially if you have other heart problems, you may experience the following complications:
- Rapid heartbeats
- Sudden cardiac arrests (rare conditions)
Treatment for the WPW Syndrome depends on the severity and frequency of your condition. It all depends on the type of arrhythmia that you have. If you don’t experience the symptoms. You don’t need the treatment yet, but if you do, then you have the following options to slow down your heart rate:
- Vagal Maneuvers are physical movements like coughing and placing an ice pack on your face. These movements affect a nerve that helps in regulating your rapid heartbeats. This will be suggested by your doctor to aid you with slowing down your heart rate when needed.
- Medications are recommended to the patient if vagal maneuvers don’t prevent the fast heartbeats. The medication is an antiarrhythmic injection that slows your heart rate.
- Cardioversion is recommended if both vagal maneuvers and medications don’t help. It includes using paddles or patches placed on the chest that electrically shocks your heart to help it regulate your heart rate.
- Radio Frequency Catheter Ablation is the treatment wherein thin tubes called catheters are threaded through your blood vessels leading to the heart. Electrodes are present on the tip to destroy the extra electrical pathway. It is most effective, and it permanently fixes your heart rhythm problems.