Symptoms and Signs of Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT, PSVT)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/1/2021

Doctor's Notes on Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT, PSVT)

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) or paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is a heart condition caused by abnormal conduction of electrical impulses in the heart. It causes the upper chambers of the heart (atria) and secondarily the lower chambers, the ventricles, to beat very rapidly. The term paroxysmal is used because the rapid heartbeat tends to come and go on its own, lasting a few seconds or many hours. 

Symptoms of PSVT include:

  • sensation of heart palpitations that may be associated with a feeling of fullness in the throat,
  • weakness, 
  • fatigue,
  • lightheadedness or dizziness,
  • shortness of breath, 
  • fainting, and
  • chest pressure.

The symptoms occur during the rapid heartbeat, but the fatigue may last even after the heartbeat has returned to normal.

What Is the Treatment for Supraventricular Tachycardia?

Depending upon the heart rhythm, medications can be used to reset the AV node or to decrease heart muscle excitability. These medications are administered intravenously. Adenosine is a short-acting medication that is commonly used as a first-line drug to treat PSVT.

Treatment options for other supraventricular tachycardias include:

If intravenous medication is not effective or if the patient has shortness of breath or low blood pressure,  cardioversion may be recommended. This means that an electrical shock is given to reset the heart's electrical system to beat with a regular rate and rhythm.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.