Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) Syndrome

What is Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?

Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome refers to a rapid heartbeat caused by an extra electrical pathway between the heart’s upper and lower chambers. This is rare and typically present at birth. An extra electrical pathway may not always cause symptoms, but when it does, serious heart problems can occur, making the management of a rapid heart rate very important.

What Causes Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?

In a normal heart, electrical impulses travel across the atria, causing the heart to contract and pump blood into the ventricles. There is usually only one pathway for this electrical signal to travel through, however, with WFW syndrome, an extra pathway allows a detour through the heart, activating the ventricles too early and leading to an irregular or rapid heartbeat. In some cases, this extra pathway is due to an abnormal gene, however, WPW syndrome can also be associated with congenital heart disease. The syndrome is more common in women, but the exact cause of the extra pathway is not entirely known.

What are the Symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?

Symptoms of WPW syndrome can occur with any age, including infants, but most commonly begin in the teens and 20s. Common symptoms include:

  • Rapid, fluttering heartbeats
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Anxiety

Episodes of WPW syndrome can be triggered by stimulants like caffeine or alcohol, may appear or worsen during exercise, and can last from a few seconds to several hours. For about 25% of cases, symptoms of WPW syndrome may disappear with age. But for others, more serious symptoms like chest pain, chest tightness, fainting, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms should be discussed with your doctor right away.

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How is Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome Treated?

If your symptoms of WPW syndrome are severe, Dr. Beshai will recommend a plan for treatment. To determine the best course of treatment, he will discuss your symptoms and conduct an ECG test. An ECG monitors your heart’s electrical activity to determine if the heart is beating irregularly. You may be asked to wear a portable ECG for 24 hours to monitor your heart rate during your regular routine.

WPW symptoms can be treated with medication to slow the heart rate. If this is ineffective, Dr. Beshai might perform a procedure like ablation to heat and destroy the extra electrical pathway. With the pathway destroyed, the normal heart rhythm should be restored, eliminating symptoms. A follow-up appointment will determine how successful treatment was, or if further treatment is necessary.

Scheduling Your WPW Treatment Appointment

Dr. Beshai can discuss your WPW syndrome symptoms to determine if you need treatment or not. While many of those who have the extra electrical pathway may never have symptoms, the syndrome can lead to more serious complications in other cases. If you are experiencing episodes of WPW syndrome, contact our office and schedule your appointment at the Heart Rhythm Institute of Arizona.

The Heart Institute of Arizona has a wide array of services that come with our premium care. From in-office dianostics and treatable conditions, to hospital based procedures, we’ve got your heart covered.




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Dr. Beshai is a board-certified electrophysiologist internationally renowned and respected for his expertise and research. Having published in major medical journals and travelled all over the world to present research, he is dedicated to providing innovative, state-of-the-art care to his patients.