Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, or more commonly referred to as WPW syndrome is a very interesting type of arrhythmia that is seen in a certain category of patients. This is a syndrome that occurs because of an irregularity in the electrical activity of the heart. You actually have an extra electrical pathway between the atria and ventricle. This irregularity can be genetic, it can be from scar tissue after a heart attack or it could be from certain medications but none the less, the pathology causes the heart to not work as effectively. Generally, when Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome is presented in babies, they have a more severe course of the disease.
The symptoms that you will notice if you are suffering from WPW syndrome will start off as pretty minor at first. You may just feel chest pain and occasional dyspnea but as you age or your heart is forced to work harder such as during exercise, this is where symptoms can start to become more severe. You are likely to have severe lethargy and fatigue, dizziness, severe shortness of breath and can even have a fatal arrhythmia in rare cases.
When a patient begins to present with symptoms similar to what I have described above, the most logical next step is to go to a cardiologist for further evaluation. The first and most lucrative examination that any cardiologist can do with WPW syndrome is order an EKG test, or fully, an electrocardiogram. This is a non-invasive, non-painful and highly-useful test to check the electrical activity of your heart. The doctor, or more realistically nurse, will place sensors on your chest in a certain configuration in order to best read how the electrical activity of your heart is working.
This is an invaluable tool when it comes to diagnosing heart attacks, arrhythmias, and WPW syndrome. Because of this extra electrical pathway, I have alluded to already, there is a slight change in the EKG pattern that will appear on the print-out. A wave called the "delta" wave will appear on the QRS fragment of an EKG. In the event you are not a medical doctor and don't have a lot of experience reading EKGs, that is the tall pointed section on a normal EKG. The "delta" wave will essentially look like a camel hump on the upward part of the spike.
Once we are able to establish that you have WPW syndrome, the next step would be treating it. There are two avenues to choose from and most of the time, it is going to be medications first: amiodarone and adenosine are sometimes used, as well as procainamide. All these medications can be an effective short-term option but will eventually present with side effects that make using them any longer too dangerous. At this stage, cardiac ablation is the most effective method to end the irregularity. What this entails is using a very precise electrical probe in order to map the electric current in the heart. The excess pathways will be burned in order to stop the current from passing. Although it sounds highly invasive, it is a very straightforward procedure in modern medicine and patients can usually go home a day after the procedure without any symptoms. If the procedure was unsuccessful, another ablation can be attempted without any additional risk.
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