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Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome

A heart condition which can cause a rapid heart rate

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

About

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 condition present from birth, affecting 1 in 1,000 live births and can be life-threatening.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome icon plus

    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
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    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
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

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