Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome

Wolff-Parkinson White (WPW) syndrome describes those with an unusual EKG pattern and either clinical fast heart rates (tachycardias) and/or documented tachycardias.

Data estimates that 1 to 3 in 1,000 people may have WPW Syndrome. WPW-associated arrhythmias may cause sudden death in children and adolescents, but with increased awareness and effective treatment options, WPW syndrome can be diagnosed early – and we can prevent sudden deaths.

About

WPW is characterized by electrical abnormalities of the heart that are caused by electrical conduction over an accessory pathway (a microscopic electrical connection between the upper and lower chambers of the heart, atria and ventricles). This pathway is in addition to the AV node, the only normal electrical conductor between the atria and ventricles.

The cause of WPW syndrome is not known. In most cases, it is associated with a structurally and functionally normal heart, though occasionally can be associated with congenital heart disease or heart muscle abnormalities.

It is generally not considered to be hereditary, except in the very rare instance when associated with genetic mutation predisposing to WPW syndrome and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

Symptoms

You may experience heart palpitations (fast heart rates), occasional lightheadedness, chest discomfort or shortness of breath.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will determine a diagnosis for WPW with an electrocardiogram (ECG) and cardiac catheterization with diagnostic electrophysiologic testing.

Treatment

In contrast to many other types of tachycardias, WPW syndrome can be regarded as potentially “curable” with daily medications or catheter ablation techniques. You should consult with a pediatric or adult cardiac electrophysiologist for expert evaluation and management.

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Resources

WPW Syndrome Brochure