Ventricular Tachycardia



The signal for a heart beat normally comes from the SA node. Ventricular tachycardia happens when areas in the lower part of the heart send abnormal signals. The extra beats cause the very fast heart rate.

The abnormal signals are caused by damage to the heart muscle. The damage may be due to conditions like a heart attack or cardiomyopathy .

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of ventricular tachycardia include:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • History of heart attacks
  • Heart problems, such as cardiomyopathy, mitral valve prolapse , valvular heart disease, or ion channel disorders
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Use of certain medications, such as antipsychotics or anti-arrhythmic drugs
  • Extreme physical or emotional overstimulation
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood
  • Very high levels of acid in the body
  • Drinking alcohol often
  • Stimulants, such as caffeine or cocaine
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary Artery plaque
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Ventricular tachycardia may cause:

  • A sensation of the heart beating very rapidly—palpitations
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Fainting
  • Chest discomfort
  • Pale skin color


Ventricular tachycardia is often an emergency. Heart problems will be suspected based on symptoms. An ECG will show the electrical activity of the heart. It will show tachycardia.

Other tests may be done to see what may trigger tachycardia:

  • Exercise stress test to test the heart under physical stress
  • Electrophysiology test to study the electrical signals of the heart



Emergency care can help to improve blood flow. CPR may be needed to improve blood flow until further care is given. A defibrillator may help to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm again.

Treatment to stop the tachycardia may include:

  • Medicine to keep a normal heart rhythm
  • Procedures such as catheter ablation—destroys tissue that is making abnormal signals
  • Surgeries such as open heart surgery—make changes to stop abnormal signals

An automatic defibrillator may be needed of other treatment does not work. The device will deliver shocks to the heart when needed to keep the heart rate steady. It is implanted just under the skin.


Steps that may prevent some ventricular tachycardia include:

  • Proper treatment for any underlying heart problems. Medicine to control heart rate and blood pressure if needed.
  • Moderate or no use of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise often.
  • Quit smoking.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.