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A to Z: Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) Syndrome

May also be called: Anomalous Atrioventricular Excitation; Preexcitation Syndrome

Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a heart condition where someone has episodes of rapid heart rate due to a genetic defect in the heart.

More to Know

People with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome have an extra electrical pathway in the heart that can cause the heart to beat faster than it normally does. This is a condition known as supraventricular tachycardia (soo-prah-ven-TRIK-yuh-ler tak-ih-KAR-dee-ah).

Most of the time, the heart beats about 60-100 times per minute. During tachycardia, the heart beats about 150-250 times per minute.

With WPW syndrome, the frequency and severity of episodes varies from person to person. Some people have very few episodes. Others have one or two each week. During an episode, a person can have an irregular heartbeat (also known as palpitations), chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fainting. In rare cases, a WPW episode can cause cardiac arrest, a condition where the heart stops pumping.

WPW is diagnosed by tests that monitor the heart's electrical activity, and it's sometimes discovered during testing for another condition.

Treatment for WPW usually involves medicine to coordinate the heart's electrical signals, or radiofrequency ablation, a procedure where a catheter is used to destroy the extra electrical pathway in the heart.

Keep in Mind

Some people with WPW never need treatment and have few or no symptoms. Many other cases can be treated with medicine. When radiofrequency ablation or surgery is needed, the results are usually successful, with patients no longer needing to take medicine.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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