How is Tachycardia Diagnosed?
A tachycardia diagnosis starts with a history and physical exam, where your doctor will check your heart rate and inquire about your medical history, symptoms, and health habits.
There are a range of tests used to confirm tachycardia and pinpoint the cause of your irregular, rapid heartbeat, including:
- ECG or EKG (electrocardiogram) - A painless test that measures the duration and timing of the heartbeat. Electrodes are placed on the chest (and sometimes on the arms and legs) to record the heart’s rhythms and determine the type of tachycardia you may have.
- Holter monitor - You may be asked to wear an at-home heart monitor (Holter monitor) for up to 3 days to record when and how often your heart rate accelerates above 100 beats per minute. A Holter monitor can be worn around the waist, over the shoulder, or clipped to a pocket or belt.
- Event recorder - An event recorder monitors your heart for longer periods, sometimes up to 30 days. Unlike a regular heart (Holter) monitor, it doesn’t record continuously. You will press a button once the symptoms of tachycardia begin to record the event. Patch monitors, extended holders, which last for two weeks, and MCOTs mobile app are also available.
- Stress test (exercise stress test) - You will ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill to observe your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing during physical exercise. At the same time, an EKG monitors the heart’s electrical activity.
- Electrophysiology study (EP study) - This test can confirm tachycardia and map out where the abnormal signaling occurs in the heart to guide a curative ablation treatment
- Echocardiogram - This test creates an image of the heart using sound waves. An echocardiogram can reveal problems with the heart valves, blood flow, and heart muscle function.
- Chest X-ray - A basic imaging test can help detect problems in the heart and lungs
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - A cardiac MRI can generate images of the blood flowing through the heart. This test can give a detailed picture of the heart’s structure, function, and muscle properties.
- Coronary angiogram - This test uses a special dye and X-rays to provide images of the coronary arteries and analyze the blood flow in patients
How is Tachycardia Treated?
Tachycardia doesn’t always manifest as concerning symptoms or require treatment. Mild forms of the condition, such as sinus tachycardia, can subside with lifestyle changes. Sinus tachycardia is a post-COVID symptom.
Atrial tachycardia treatment options can include surgical and nonsurgical procedures, medication, and adjustments to diet and habits.
Surgical options for tachycardia
Tachycardia can be life-threatening. Sometimes procedures are necessary to ensure your heart stays healthy. Invasive options for tachycardia treatment include:
- Catheter ablation - Thin catheters (tubes) are threaded through an artery, typically in the groin, and up to the heart. Electrodes on the ends of the catheters emit energy to create tiny scars in the heart. This blocks abnormal electrical signals and restores the normal rhythm.
- Pacemaker - A pacemaker is a small device surgically placed under the skin in the chest area. The device sends electrical impulses that can help control and correct the rhythm of the heartbeat.
- Maze procedure - Tiny surgical incisions are made to create a pattern (maze) of scar tissue in the upper part of the heart (atria). The maze (scar tissue) can block irregular heart signals that cause tachycardia. This is frequently done when arrhythmias present another problem requiring heart surgery.
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) - A battery-powered device that can help keep track of your heart rate
Cardioversion - A procedure used to treat tachycardia to restore an irregular heartbeat to a normal rhythm. Typically, cardioversion patches are placed on the chest and back to deliver short, electrical impulses to reset the heart to a regular rhythm.
Chemical (pharmacological) cardioversion - Oral or IV medication can be given to regulate the heart’s rhythm without using electric shocks. The rhythmic correction may take longer than with electric cardioversion treatments.
Other arrhythmia medications – Other drugs may be prescribed long-term as tachycardia treatments or intravenously in an emergency. These include amiodarone, flecainide, and others.
Lifestyle and diet changes
You can prevent and potentially treat tachycardia by taking care of your heart and avoiding behaviors that trigger a rapid heartbeat. Heart-healthy choices to help maintain a normal heart rhythm include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol
- Managing stress levels
- Losing excess weight
- Exercising regularly
- Controlling high cholesterol and high blood pressure with recommended medication from your doctor
Tachycardia is a term for when a heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute. It can indicate non-threatening to life-threatening heart issues and should be reported to your doctor.
No. Sometimes a rapid heart rate can be due to stress or strenuous exercise and will go away on its own. But tachycardia can be a sign of significant heart issues, like high blood pressure, that can lead to a stroke or cardiac arrest. Symptoms should be taken seriously.
Tachycardia can manifest as a pounding, racing heart rate, or the sensation of your heart flopping inside your chest and possible chest pain.
You can perform vagal maneuvers to stimulate the vagus nerve, the nerve that runs from your belly to your brain and sends messages to the cells that slow your heartbeat. Close your mouth, hold your nose, and try to blow air out for 10 seconds. This may activate the vagus nerve and slow down the rapid heart rate.
Splashing cold water or applying an ice pack to the face or coughing can also stimulate the vagus nerve.
Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Tachycardia Treatment
NewYork-Presbyterian provides world-renowned cardiology and cardiac surgical care for adults and children. Our heart doctors are familiar with the symptoms and causes of tachycardiather types of arrhythmiasand heart conditions. We’ll work with you to develop a personal treatment plan to get your heart back on the right beat.
If you are experiencing symptoms of tachycardia or have been diagnosed with the condition, contact us today.