Date: 14 Nov 2006

Supraventricular tachyarrhythmia as a cause of sudden cardiac arrest

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Supraventricular tachyarrhythmias (SVTA) are an accepted cause of cardiac arrest in patients with Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome (WPW) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but their participation in other conditions is less well understood. The purpose of the study was to examine the role of SVTA in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) by comprehensive evaluation of patients successfully resuscitated from SCA.


A total of 169 survivors of SCA in the absence of acute myocardial infarction underwent systematic evaluation that included echocardiography, Holter monitoring, coronary angiography and electrophysiological study (EPS) with additional testing in selected cases using provocative drug testing with isoproterenol, ajmaline or ergonovine.


SVTA was found as the only possible cause or as the cause facilitating SCA in 29 patients: (1) 3 had a WPW syndrome related to accessory pathway with short refractory period; (2) for 12 patients, SVTA was the cause of cardiovascular collapse; heart disease (HD) was present in 11 cases, but disappeared in two of four with dilated cardiomyopathy after the restoration of sinus rhythm; (3) in 14 patients, SVTA degenerated either in a VF or ventricular tachycardia (VT); HD was present in 12 cases, but disappeared in one; two had no HD and recurrent similar arrhythmia was documented by cardiac defibrillator in one of them. SVTA induced coronary ischemia was the main cause of SCA.


Rapid SVTA was a cause of SCA, either by cardiovascular collapse or by the degeneration in VT or VF. The complication generally occurred in patients with advanced HD or with rapid SVTA-induced cardiomyopathy and rarely in patients without HD. The incidence of SVTA as the only cause or the facilitating cause of SCAs is probably underestimated, because it is difficult to prove.