Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome


WPW syndrome is a congenital heart condition which causes the heart to suddenly beat abnormally fast

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About WPW syndrome 

WPW syndrome is a condition which causes an abnormally rapid heart rate. A normal heart rate is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If you have this condition your heartbeat may abruptly increase to abnormally high rates. This is a congenital condition present from birth, affecting 1 in 1,000 live births and can be life-threatening.

Need to know

You may not have any symptoms of the WPW abnormality for many years, so the condition can go undetected until later in life.Symptoms may also stop and start suddenly at any age.

If you have this syndrome, the main symptom is your heart will suddenly start racing before abruptly returning to normal. This is because the heart has an extra electrical pathway that causes a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) by creating a short-circuit.

Other symptoms may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • palpitations
  • chest pain
  • fainting or blackouts
  • breathlessness

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is the most commonly used test to diagnose WPW syndrome. This measures the electrical activity of your heart.

Other tests include may include:

  • an exercise electrocardiogram (ECG) while you're exercising on a treadmill
  • a Holter monitor test where you'll wear a device to track your heart's rhythm
  • an electrophysiology study, where a thin, flexible wire is threaded from your groin to your heart

Your consultant will discuss your treatment options and let you know the best approach for you. If your symptoms are mild or infrequent, you may not need treatment.

Catheter ablation is the treatment of choice for the WPW syndrome to eliminate the risk of the condition. During this procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is threaded from the vein at the top of your leg into your heart. When it is in the correct position, energy is used to destroy the extra electrical pathway in your heart.

Our cardiologists

We're proud to work with leading cardiac experts specialising in Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome, whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.

Our WPW syndrome locations

The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.