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What types of abnormal fast heart rhythms develop in children?

Some abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, are fast, others are slow, and some are irregular. A number of types of fast arrhythmias can develop in children and young adults:

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT): This refers to a fast arrhythmia that is generated from somewhere in the top filling chambers of the heart (the atria). This is the most common type of fast arrhythmia in children. It can present during pregnancy or in infancy as well as later in childhood. In this abnormal heart rhythm, the body’s natural electrical impulses stimulating the heart do not come from the sinus node within the heart as they should. Instead, electrical activity may be carried through additional pathways through the heart, which as commonly referred to as “accessory pathways.” Other forms of SVT may be created from additional areas in the atria or near the atrioventricular (AV) node. Electrical impulses can be generated at a rapid rate, which may result in up to 230-280 heartbeats per minute. It may seem surprising, but children typically are able to tolerate these fast heart rates well. Sometimes, SVT can be stopped by using vagal maneuvers, but sometimes medicines are required to restore the normal sinus rhythm.

Atrial Flutter: This condition occurs when rapidly fired electrical signals in the heart cause the muscles in the atria (the upper chambers of the heart) to contract quickly, leading to a very fast and steady heartbeat. This is a form of SVT. Atrial flutter is sometimes diagnosed during pregnancy. New-onset atrial flutter without congenital heart disease is relatively unusual in children.

Ventricular Tachycardia: This is a dangerous type of rapid heart rhythm usually associated with poor cardiac output (the amount of blood ejected from the heart). It arises in the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles) from tissues that generate a rapid and irregular heart rhythm.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.