Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome

Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, or WPW, is a supraventricular tachycardia that causes the heart to beat quickly. WPW is a congenital heart disorder, meaning that it is present from birth and involves an extra electrical pathway in the heart. This extra pathway creates a “short circuit” in the atrium, which in turn creates a circular electrical signal. While one is born with it, it is unknown when the symptoms will develop, if at all. Many patients are diagnosed with the disorder as children or adolescents

WPW is often mild, and many patients will experience few, if any, symptoms during an episode. However, there are situations in which it can be more problematic, especially if atrial fibrillation or Afib is also present.

The Symptoms of WPW

Much like atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter, WPW has symptoms very similar to other fast heartbeats. These may include:

  • Thumping or pounding in the chest
  • heart palpitations
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Difficulty performing exercise
  • Fainting for no particular reason (syncope)
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath.

These symptoms are not predictable and most cases of WPW begin as paroxysm or occasional. Some people may experience stronger episodes while others may not. The length between episodes will also vary between patients.

Diagnosing and Treating WPW

Most diagnoses for an arrhythmia begin with a standard EKG to monitor the heartbeat. However, as with many arrhythmias, they may not occur exactly at the time of your office visit. Therefore, you may be sent home with a Holter monitor – essentially a portable EKG that records your heartbeat over time, for Dr. Banker and your medical team to review. If the Holter monitor does not pick up an episode, Dr. Banker may discuss an implantable loop recorder that continually monitors your heartbeat for up to three years

Treatment for WPW is like other super ventricular tachycardias and often starts with lifestyle changes including stopping smoking, alcohol, and drugs. Losing weight and exercising may also help. However, lifestyle change is often unsustainable and medications may be used to control the electrical impulses. Many patients will opt for cardiac catheter ablation in the form of RF ablation or cryoablation to solve the issue of WPW once and for all.

Next Steps

You believe you are having an arrhythmia, you should visit a cardiac electrophysiologist who has the technology and tools at their disposal to diagnose and ultimately treat virtually any arrhythmia. To that end, WPW is very treatable, and Dr. Banker takes a stepped approach to improve or eliminate the discomfort associated with it. Contact us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Banker and learn more about treatment options for WPW.