• Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)

    Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW) is one of the causes of supraventricular tachycardia (fast heart rate originating above the ventricles).

    When you have WPW, along with your normal conduction pathway, you have an extra pathway(s) called an accessory pathway. It looks like normal heart muscle, but it:

    • conducts impulses faster than normal
    • conducts impulses in both directions

    The impulses can travel around the heart very quickly, in a circular pattern, causing the heart to beat unusually fast. This is called re-entry tachycardia.

    Re-entry arrhythmias occur in about 70 percent of people with WPW; some may also have atrial fibrillation (a common irregular heart rhythm distinguished by disorganized, rapid, and irregular heart rhythm).

    The greatest concern for people with WPW is the possibility of having atrial fibrillation with a fast ventricular response that, at times, may worsen to ventricular fibrillation, a life-threatening arrhythmia.

    In people with WPW, whose heart rate cannot be controlled with medications, ablation can improve symptoms and cure the abnormal arrhythmias. During ablation, high-frequency electrical energy is delivered through a catheter to "disconnect" the abnormal pathways.