CUH NHS 75th birthday logo

Supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT)

Patient information A-Z

Who is the leaflet for? What is its aim?

You are being given this leaflet because you have attended the Emergency Department with a condition called supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT).

What is supra-ventricular tachycardia?

This is a condition where your heart begins to go very fast. This is usually caused by an extra piece of electrical tissue in your heart that you have had since birth.

When this happens, you might feel

  • light headed,
  • have a pain in your chest
  • be short of breath.

This does not mean that you have had a heart attack or that you have angina.

You may have attacks like this again. If this happens and the attack lasts more than 20 minutes or you feel unwell, you should return to the Emergency Department. You should cut down on caffeine containing drinks as these can start an attack.

The doctor who saw you may have arranged for you to see a heart specialist as an outpatient. If you do not receive an appointment within eight weeks you should contact your General Practitioner.

Future treatment

There are a number of treatments that can be offered to you to stop these attacks happening again. The treatment that you are offered will depend on the type of SVT that you have and your personal preference.


It may be possible to control the attacks by taking medication.

Catheter ablation treatment

This may be an option for some types of SVT. This is where a small wire is passed via a large vein in the top of your leg into your heart. The tip of the catheter can destroy a tiny section of heart tissue that causes the abnormal electrical impulses. It can be very successful, and after the procedure you will not need to take medication to prevent SVT.

Do nothing

If you have attacks rarely and they do not seem to cause any problems, it may be appropriate to do nothing.

Please telephone your GP or NHS 111 should you have any worries or concerns following discharge from hospital.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151