Treatment options for supraventricular tachycardia  

Treatment
Pros
Cons
Self help

Reducing the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink, limiting the number of cigarettes you smoke and ensuring you get enough rest

  • Can help prevent future episodes of SVT
  • Unlikely to stop all episodes of SVT
Vagal manoeuvres

Techniques, such as the Valsalva manoeuvre and carotid sinus massage, are used to slow down the electrical impulses in your heart by stimulating the vagus nerve

  • Can stop ongoing episodes of SVT
  • Valsalva manoeuvre can be performed without medical supervision
  • Effective in less than 1 in 3 cases
  • Carotid sinus massage should only be carried out by a trained healthcare professional

Medication

Adenosine

Medication that blocks the abnormal electrical impulses in the heart

  • Can stop ongoing episodes of SVT if vagal manoeuvres are ineffective
  • Only used as and when it's needed
  • Side effects are usually short-lived
  • Only available as an injection in hospital
  • Common side effects include feeling sick, dizziness, chest tightness and breathlessness
Verapamil

Medication that relaxes blood vessels, so the heart doesn't have to pump as hard

  • Injections can stop ongoing episodes of SVT if vagal manoeuvres are ineffective and adenosine is unsuitable (for example, if you have asthma)
  • Tablets can help to prevent future episodes of SVT
  • Injections need to be carried out in hospital
  • Injections carry risk of serious side effects, such as low blood pressure
  • Tablets need to be taken every day
  • Common side effects of tablets include dizziness, constipation, feeling sick, headache and flushing
Digoxin and beta-blockers

Tablets that make the heart beat slower

  • Can help to prevent future SVT episodes
  • Different types can be tried if one type is ineffective or you experience unpleasant side effects
  • Need to be taken every day
  • Common side effects include dizziness, tiredness, blurred vision, diarrhoea, feeling sick and erectile dysfunction in men

Surgery and procedures

Cardioversion

A procedure carried out under general anaesthetic, where an electrical current is applied to the chest using a defibrillator, to shock your heart into a normal rhythm

  • Can stop ongoing episodes of SVT if vagal manoeuvres and injections are ineffective
  • Relatively simple procedure, with very low risk of serious surgical complications
  • You can usually go home on the day you have the procedure
  • Your chest muscles may feel sore afterwards, and your skin may be red and irritated for a few days where the electric shocks were applied
  • Small risk of complications from the general anaesthetic
Catheter ablation

Surgery carried out while you're awake, but sedated. The procedure destroys tiny parts of the heart that are causing problems in the heart's electrical system

  • Very effective at preventing future episodes of SVT
  • Very little risk of anaesthetic complications, because general anaesthetic isn't required
  • You can normally go home on the day you have the procedure
  • Some people worry about being awake during the procedure
  • You may need to stay in hospital overnight
  • Risk of surgical complications, such as minor bleeding or bruising in the groin
  • Small (less than 1%) additional risk that the normal heart electrical system is damaged during the procedure, which may mean a permanent pacemaker is required to control your heart rhythm