Supraventricular Tachycardia
Treatment

The treatment for your child's supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) will depend on the type and severity of their condition and the results of various diagnostic tests, such as the electrophysiology (EP) study. You and your doctor will decide which treatment is right for your child.

The following treatments may be considered:

Medications

Certain anti-arrhythmic drugs change the electrical signals in the heart and help prevent heart abnormalities from starting irregular or rapid heart rhythms. Medication may be used to convert SVT to a normal rhythm, slow down the heart rate or prevent recurrences. Our goal is to find the medication that works best for your child. On occasion, we admit children to the hospital and monitor their heart rhythm while we start the medication.

Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation (RFA)

Radiofrequency catheter ablation (RFA) is a technique to treat arrhythmia that was pioneered at UCSF. It disrupts part of the electrical pathway causing irregular heart rhythms, providing relief for patients who may not respond well to medications, who prefer not to take medications or who can't take medications.

The procedure involves threading a tiny metal-tipped catheter through a vein or artery in the leg and into the heart. Using fluoroscopy or X-ray, doctors guide the catheter through a blood vessel to the heart. Additional catheters, inserted through the vein in the leg and the neck, contain electrical sensors to find the area causing the arrhythmia. This is called mapping.

The metal-tipped catheter is maneuvered to each site in the heart that causes the irregular heartbeat. Radiofrequency waves or current is sent through the tip of the catheter, cauterizing or burning cells to destroy the extra electrical pathways that cause abnormal heart rhythms. In most cases, patients leave the hospital within 24 hours or the same day.

RFA has been proven very effective in treating children with arrhythmias. Your doctor will discuss this treatment and others with you to decide the best option for you or your child. For conditions like Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, in which a hair-thin strand of tissue creates an extra electrical pathway between the upper and lower chambers of the heart, RFA ablation offers a cure. It has become the treatment of choice for patients with that disorder.

Cryoablation

Sometimes referred to as cryo, cryoablation is similar to radiofrequency catheter ablation (RFA) in that it is a procedure that disrupts the abnormal electrical pathway in the heart. This newer technology has been used in the Electrophysiology Laboratory at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital since March 2004.

Instead of burning cells, however, cryoablation destroys cells by freezing them and has been very effective in treating children with arrhythmias. Your doctor will discuss this treatment and others with you to decide which method is the best option.

Like RFA, cryoablation involves threading a tiny metal-tipped catheter through a vein or artery in the leg and into the heart. Doctors guide the catheter through the blood vessel to the heart by using fluoroscopy or X-ray.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Heart Center

Arrhythmia Center
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 514-2783
Fax: (415) 353-4144
Appointment information

Pediatric Heart Center Clinic at Mission Bay
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2008
Fax: (415) 353-4144
Appointment information

Cardiac Intensive Care Unit
1975 Fourth St., Fourth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-1955
Fax: (415) 353-9144