Treatment depends on several factors, including the severity and frequency of your symptoms.
If you have the Wolff-Parkinson-White pathway but don't have any symptoms, you probably won't need treatment. If treatment is needed, the goal is to slow a fast heart rate when it occurs and to prevent future episodes. The options include:
- Vagal maneuvers. These simple physical movements — which include coughing, bearing down as if you are having a bowel movement, and putting an ice pack on your face — affect a nerve that helps regulate your heartbeat (vagus nerve). Your doctor may recommend performing vagal maneuvers to help slow a rapid heartbeat when it occurs.
- Medications. If vagal maneuvers don't stop the fast heartbeat, you may need an injection of an anti-arrhythmic medication. Your doctor also may recommend a medication that can slow the heart rate.
- Cardioversion. Your doctor may use paddles or patches on your chest to electrically shock your heart and help restore a normal rhythm. Cardioversion is typically used when maneuvers and medications aren't effective.
- Radiofrequency catheter ablation. Thin, flexible tubes (catheters) are threaded through blood vessels to your heart. Electrodes at the catheter tips are heated to destroy (ablate) the extra electrical pathway causing your condition. Radiofrequency ablation is effective in up to 95 percent of people with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.
Your doctor will likely recommend follow-up appointments to monitor your heart rhythm and rate.
March 19, 2014
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- Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. The Merck Manuals: Home Health Handbook for Patients and Caregivers. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/heart_and_blood_vessel_disorders/abnormal_heart_rhythms/wolff-parkinson-white_wpw_syndrome.html?qt=&sc=&alt=. Accessed Aug. 16, 2013.
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