Wolff Parkinson White (WPW) Syndrome

Chest | Cardiology | Wolff Parkinson White (WPW) Syndrome (Disease)


Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is an abnormality in the electrical functioning of the heart which may cause rapid heart rates. The abnormality affects the electrical signal between the atria and ventricles.

Causes and Risk factors

Congenital heart disease may contribute to this and other arrhythmias. Ebsteins anomaly, a congenital heart defect that involves displacement of the tricuspid valve, located on the right side of the heart, is one known cause of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. This anomaly allows blood to flow via the small hole to the other side of the heart. Often, there is no known cause for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Many people with the syndrome have no symptoms. On the other hand, some people experience temporary rapid heartbeat due to certain drugs, smoking, and anxiety.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Electrocardiography (ECG) is used to diagnose Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, and other cardiac arrhythmias. A trained physician, normally a cardiologist, can recognize patterns of electrical conduction. With this syndrome, the extra pathway will show a pattern different from those of normal conduction. If no irregular patterns show on the ECG, the patient may be sent home with a 24-hour heart monitor, called a Holter monitor, which will help detect intermittent occurrences. Other studies, such as the cardiac electrophysiologic study (EPS), may be ordered to pinpoint the location of the accessory pathway, and to determine a course of treatment.

Various drugs may be used to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, as well as other cardiac arrhythmias. The purpose of these drugs is to slow the electrical signals and excitation of heart muscles. As some of these drugs may have side effects, including the rare production of new or more frequent arrhythmias, the patient should be carefully observed. Ablative therapies may be accomplished with radio-frequency or cardiac catheters to cut through the tissue which is causing the abnormal electrical signals.

At one time, only open heart surgery was used, but the procedure can be done now with local anesthesia in a special cardiac laboratory. In some cases, surgery may still be recommended to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Young people with this syndrome may be treated more successfully with surgery, rather than enduring a lifetime of drug treatments, or the possible threat of sudden cardiac death. ...