Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome
One of the great medical successes of the last 50 years in the UK has been the decline in the death rate from heart and circulatory diseases. While great progress these diseases still cause around a quarter of all deaths in the UK. More people are living with a heart condition than have cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined.
Our GPs work closely with a number of highly experienced Consultants who share their experience with us. Dr Martin Lowe, Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist joined us to talk about a condition causing an abnormally high heart rate.
Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a heart condition that affects between 1 to 3% of the population, that’s about the same as the number of people born with Cystic Fibrosis.
WPW affects the electrical system that controls heart rate. It is an electrical disorder that impacts the electrical pathways that originate in the heart. People with WPW often have episodes of an abnormally fast heartbeat or supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). WPW is the most common cause of SVT in children, although it affects adults as well.
The symptoms of WPW include rapid pulse, palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness. These symptoms can be mild and might only occur during physical activity, or they can be more severe and happen in episodes. WPW episodes can last from a few seconds to several minutes.
In the worst case it can lead to stroke, cardiac arrest, or heart failure. Because of this, it is important to seek medical care if any symptoms appear that could be related to SVT.
The cause of WPW is unknown, but it is often associated with genetic factors. People with WPW are born with an extra electrical pathway in between the two major parts of the heart, and this creates an electrical loop within the heart. If this extra pathway is activated, it can lead to an abnormally fast heartbeat.
The primary treatment for WPW is ablation, which is used to disable the extra electric pathway in the heart, or electric shock to correct the rhythm. In severe cases, pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) may be used.
With proper diagnosis and treatment, WPW can be managed and symptoms can be reduced. Your doctor or healthcare provider will work with you to create the best plan of care.
At the London General Practice all of our health screening programmes check for abnormal heart behaviour and address specific concerns you may have. That’s why all of our health screens have at least an hour of time with your Doctor and why they are always personalised to you.
Dr Lowe is a highly experienced Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist who specialises in the treatment of arrhythmias in adults and children with catheter ablation and pacemaker/defibrillator implantation. He works at The Harley Street Clinic and Portland Hospital, London. Martin has been active in leading arrhythmia services in the UK through his work with the British Heart Rhythm Society and as Clinical Director at the Barts Heart Centre in London.