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Long QT Syndrome

What is Long QT Syndrome?

Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) is a condition that causes fast, chaotic heartbeats as a result of an abnormal electrical circuit. The condition is characterized by a long QT interval on an electrocardiogram (ECG). This interval represents how much time it takes for the heart’s electrical system to send a signal through the ventricles, causing the heart to contract and then retract. With LQTS, there is a delay in the amount of time it takes for the heart to contract and recharge, increasing the risk for dangerous ventricular tachycardia. LQTS is rare but can be life-threatening if left untreated.

What Causes Long QT Syndrome?

Long QT syndrome can develop due to certain medication, but most cases of LQTS are congenital. Congenital LQTS is inherited at birth, caused by an abnormality in the gene code for the ion channels, resulting in slow recovery after each heartbeat. Those at a higher risk for LQTS are:

  • Children who are born deaf
  • A family or personal history of syncope (fainting)
  • A family history of unexplained sudden cardiac death
  • A family history of LQTS

What are the Symptoms of Long QT Syndrome?

Long QT syndrome prevents the heart from effectively pumping blood to the rest of the body. Symptoms associated with LQTS are due to this severe arrhythmia and can result in:

  • Syncope (fainting)
  • Seizures
  • Sudden death

Symptoms of LQTS are most likely to occur during exercise, emotional distress or excitement, during sleep, or upon waking suddenly. Some with LQTS never experience symptoms and are diagnosed through a routine ECG. If symptoms do occur, they usually begin in the early teen years. 

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How is Long QT Syndrome Treated?

If you experience symptoms of LQTS or have a family history of the condition, you should seek treatment. To diagnose LQTS, Dr. Beshai will perform an ECG to detect irregular activity in the heart’s electrical system. He will likely perform a stress test as well to determine how the heart responds to exercise. A Holter monitor can also be used to record the heart’s electrical activity over a longer period of time, typically 24-48 hours. This will show Dr. Beshai if there are abnormalities in the heart’s rhythm.

Once LQTS is detected, Dr. Beshai will develop a treatment plan to manage the condition and prevent complications related to a severe arrhythmia. Most patients who are diagnosed with LQTS are given a beta-blocker, even if they do not experience symptoms. Other medications may be prescribed to shorten the length of the QT interval. You will be asked to avoid certain medications and always check with your doctor before taking anything, even over-the-counter medications. In some cases, further treatment is needed and Dr. Beshai may use an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD is a small device attached to the heart and can shock the heart when life-threatening arrhythmias occur, preventing sudden death. 

Scheduling Your Long QT Syndrome Treatment Appointment

Long QT syndrome can be life-threatening, and treatment should be sought even if you do not experience symptoms yet. Dr. Beshai can provide the right course of treatment to ensure complications of LQTS do not occur. If you have a family history of LQTS and believe you could be at risk, contact our office and schedule your appointment at the Heart Rhythm Institute of Arizona.

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