WPW Syndrome stands for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. It is also called as Ventricular pre-excitation with arrhythmia. WPW syndrome is the most common type of ventricular pre-excitation syndromes. In normal conditions, the electrical signals in the heart move through the heart using a single path. It is as a result of the movement of electrical signals from the heart’s atria to the ventricles, the heart beat is caused. Therefore for the heart to beat properly, the timing of the electrical signals play a vital role. But in case of people with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, as they are born with an extra connection in the heart, called an accessory pathway which allows electrical signals to go around the atrioventricular node and move from the atria to the ventricles faster than usual, this results in the arrival of the electrical signals to the ventricle sooner than it actually should. This condition is called the WPW syndrome.
The WPW Syndrome comes under the category of heart’s electrical abnormality called the pre-excitation syndrome. It is usually recognized by the changes seen in the electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a graphical record that shows the heart’s electrical activity.
Types of WPW Syndrome
WPW syndrome is categorized into two types depending on the ECG findings. They are the type A and the type B. Let us have a brief discussion on each one of them.
In this type of WPW syndrome, the delta wave and QRS complex are predominantly straight in the precordial leads. The dominant R wave in lead V1 may be misinterpreted as right bundle branch block.
The delta wave and QRS complex are predominantly negative in leads V1 and V2 and positive in the other precordial leads, resembling left bundle branch block.
There are cases wherein some people have WPW syndrome but do not know they have it because they do not experience any symptoms while there are cases where the patients may experience several symptoms. The common symptoms are:
- Rapid heart beat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest palpitations
- Cardiac arrest
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome affects 1 in 1,000 people globally. In most of the cases, the cause of WPW syndrome is unknown. However, there are cases which show a relation between the genes and the WPW syndrome though only a small percentage of WPW syndrome cases are said to run in families.
There are very few complications of Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. However, complications of WPW syndrome can occur at any age. But people who are born with an accessory pathway in the heart will never experience any serious health problems associated with the condition.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis of WPW Syndorme is usually done using the electrocardiogram. Treatment of WPW syndrome depends on how severe the symptoms are. It also depends on the type of WPW syndrome the person is suffering from. Most of the time, the asymptomatic patients, that is the patients who are not troubled by symptoms, usually do not need any treatment. However, even though treatment is not necessary, it is very much important to be evaluated on a regular basis by the doctor.
The patients with the symptoms of WPW syndrome require certain medications to treat the symptoms. If the test indicates that it needs treatments other than medications, then the doctor may suggest other procedures. The most common procedure is catheter ablation. This procedure is used to stop the extra abnormal electrical pathway. In this procedure, a flexible tube is guided into the heart to the area where the problem exists. That affected tissue is then destroyed with radiofrequency energy and thus stops the electrical pathway. As mentioned earlier, whether a patient will be treated with medication or with an ablation procedure depends on quite a few factors like the severity of symptoms, risk for future arrhythmias, occurrence of symptoms, etc.