Ventricular Tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is a type of arrhythmia, in which the heart beats at an abnormally fast rate. This may cause the heart to pump less effectively, causing a decrease in blood pressure, which may lead to fainting.

The "normal" number of heartbeats per minute, called pulse rate, varies with age. The heart beats about 140 times a minute in a newborn, compared to 70 times a minute in an older child at rest. Heart rate is not constant, changing in response to many factors, such as activity, fever or fear. In VT, the heart beats too quickly, as fast as 200 to 300 beats per minute, which prevents the heart from filling completely with blood and the body from receiving the blood volume it needs to function properly.

VT can result from scarring in the heart due to a previous surgery or diseased heart muscle or cells. Diseased heart muscle or cells may be found in children with inherited heart defects, such as cardiomyopathy or right ventricular dysplasia.

Ventricular tachycardia (VT) may cause the following symptoms:

  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Fainting, also known as syncope, or near-syncope
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Palpitations, which can be skipping, fluttering or pounding in the chest
  • Shortness of breath

It is important to note that children may not know how to describe what they are feeling during a period of VT. They may have trouble keeping up with other children or realize they are having "spells" and want to sit down and rest. On occasion, a child may not experience any symptoms at all.

Ventricular tachycardia often occurs spontaneously with unpredictable timing, and specialized tests are needed to make an accurate diagnosis. If your doctor suspects that your child has an arrhythmia such as ventricular tachycardia, he or she will order one or more of the following diagnostic tests to determine the source of your child's symptoms:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) — An ECG records the heart's electrical activity. Small patches called electrodes are placed on your child's chest, arms and legs, and are connected by wires to the ECG machine. The electrical impulses of your child's heart are translated into a graph or chart, enabling doctors to determine the pattern of electrical current flow in the heart and to diagnose arrhythmias.
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Treatment for your child's ventricular tachycardia (VT) will depend on the type and severity of your child's condition and the results of their 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:


Certain anti-arrhythmic drugs change the electrical signals in the heart and help prevent irregular or rapid heart rhythms. Medication may be used to convert ventricular tachycardia to a normal rhythm, slow down the heart rate or prevent recurrences.

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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

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