Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

What Is Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome? What Causes Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, also known as WPW, occurs when there is an extra electrical pathway in the heart, resulting in episodes of tachycardia (accelerated heartbeat). The patient is born with the extra electrical pathway, so symptoms can be experienced at any age, but tend to appear during the teens or early 20s. Although periods of tachycardia are not generally life-threatening, patients can develop serious heart problems.

The faulty electrical system tells the heart when to contract. If there is an extra electrical connection inside the heart, which in this case is the communication from the atria to the ventricles, it acts as a short circuit, making the heart beat abnormally, which could be too fast or irregularly.

The human heart consists of two upper chambers and two lower chambers. The two upper chambers are called the left atrium and the right atrium - the plural of atrium is atria. The two lower chambers are the left ventricle and the right ventricle.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, between 0.1% and 0.3% of the US general population is affected by WPW.

A small percentage of patients with WPW have a gene mutation, while others have some forms of congenital heart disease, for example, Ebstein's anomally. Nobody really knows why this extra electrical pathway develops.

According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary:

<="" b=""> is "an electrocardiographic pattern sometimes associated with paroxysmal tachycardia; it consists of a short PR interval (usually 0.1 second or less; occasionally normal) together with a prolonged QRS complex with a slurred initial component (delta wave)."
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What are the signs and symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

Signs and symptoms usually start emerging when patients are in their teens or twenties, and probably include:
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Passing out
  • Poor endurance during exercise; the patient can tire easily
  • Vertigo
Periods of tachycardia can come on rapidly and last for less than a minute, or persist for a number of hours. They are more likely to occur after sustained physical exertion.

In more severe cases the patient can experience:
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden death
Infants - may have shortness of breath, inactivity, poor appetite, listlessness, rapid heartbeat which may be visible to the naked eye.

Some people may feel nothing and are unaware anything is wrong. The condition is discovered when the patient goes for a checkup about something else - doctors call this "Wolff-Parkinson-White pattern".

Are there any complications associated with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

Although in the vast majority of cases patients experience no complications, sometimes they are possible. It is hard to estimate what each patient's risks are. Individuals who are not treated, especially those with other heart conditions, may develop ventricular fibrillation, hypotension (drop in blood pressure), heart failure, recurrent fainting, and even sudden death.

What are the treatment options for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

When a patient's heart rate speeds up, the doctor's aim is to slow it back down to normal and prevent recurrence.Learn more....!!!

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