The different types of tachycardia treatment depend on the kind of tachycardia, which is when the heart is beating faster than normal, and the reason for the abnormal rhythm. Sinus tachycardia is asymptomatic and is usually caused by factors such as stress, exercise, and fever. This condition generally does not require any treatment, although a doctor may choose to prescribe medication. Supraventricular tachycardia is more serious, as the fast heartbeat is due to faulty electrical impulses in the heart, and treatments include vagal maneuvers, carotid massage, surgical procedures, or medication. If one has tachycardia, a doctor should be consulted prior to starting any form of treatment.
Although tachycardia treatment is generally unnecessary for sinus tachycardia because it can resolve on its own, medication might be prescribed in some cases. One type of medication that might be prescribed is an antiarrhythmic drug, which suppresses abnormal heart rhythms. Another possibility is a beta blocker medication that reduces the effects of adrenaline on the heart’s sinus rhythm.
Supraventricular tachycardia will often respond to kinds of tachycardia treatment called vagal maneuvers, which release substances that stimulate the vagus nerves. The stimulation slows the electrical pulses that control the heart rate and disrupts the abnormal rhythm circuit. Vagal maneuvers include holding the breath for a few seconds, tensing up the stomach muscles and bearing down, and gagging and coughing. Additionally, putting one’s face in ice cold water or pressing on the eyelids can stimulate the vagus nerves. If those actions do not work, then it might help for one to just lie down and relax.
Another tachycardia treatment is to massage the carotid sinus, which is located in the neck, just below where the jaw angles. Gently rubbing or pressing on the carotid sinus releases chemicals that slow the heart rate. This should not be done on a person who is at high risk for a stroke, however.
There are several different surgical procedures that might be recommended to treat supraventricular tachycardia, one of which is a catheter ablation procedure. This involves thin wires that are inserted into a blood vessel via the thigh, groin, neck, or elbow. The wires are passed through the vessels up into the heart, using X-rays as a guide. Through the wires, the electrical activity of the heart is measured to determine what areas are causing the abnormal heart rhythm. Hot or cold energy or radiofrequency energy is then sent into those areas via the wires to destroy the problematic heart tissue.
Implanting a pacemaker is another surgical tachycardia treatment. A pacemaker is an electronic medical device that regulates the heartbeat, and it is implanted by a cardiologist. A small box is inserted under the skin near the collar bone and is connected to the heart with wires. If the box detects an abnormal heart rate, it sends electrical impulses to the heart to try and normalize the heart rate. A similar device called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator might also be used to regulate the heart rate.
In rare cases, an open-heart maze procedure might be done, although there are a limited number of surgeons who are able to perform it. The process is done by cutting multiple slits in the muscle of the atria and stitching it back up. The incisions interrupt stray electrical circuits that can cause tachycardia.
Medications might be recommended in addition to or instead of the surgical procedures as tachycardia treatment. For acute episodes of tachycardia, adenosine might be given intravenously for fast relief. Those who have recurring episodes might benefit from beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, or antiarrythmic medications.