Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia) caused by abnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles).
Your heart rate is regulated by electrical signals sent across heart tissues. A healthy heart normally beats about 60 to 100 times a minute when at rest and is defined by signals that originate in the upper chambers of the heart (atria).
In ventricular tachycardia (V-tach or VT), abnormal electrical signals in the ventricles cause the heart to beat faster than normal, usually 100 or more beats a minute, out of sync with the upper chambers.
When that happens, your heart may not be able to pump enough blood to your body and lungs because the chambers are beating so fast or out of sync with each other that they don't have time to fill properly.
Ventricular tachycardia may be brief, lasting for only a few seconds, and perhaps not cause any symptoms. Or it can last for much longer and cause symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, palpitations or even loss of consciousness.
In some cases, ventricular tachycardia can cause your heart to stop (sudden cardiac arrest), which is a life-threatening medical emergency. This condition usually occurs in people with other heart conditions, such as those who have had a previous heart attack or other structural heart disease (cardiomyopathy).
A dangerous condition related to ventricular tachycardia is ventricular fibrillation (V-fib). In V-fib, your lower heart chambers contract in a very rapid and uncoordinated manner.
Sometimes this rhythm may occur as a result of ventricular tachycardia degenerating into ventricular fibrillation, or it may originate from single ventricular beats. This abnormal rhythm happens most often in people with established heart disease or a prior heart attack. It may also occur due to electrolyte abnormalities (such as high or low potassium levels) or, rarely, in otherwise normal hearts.
Ventricular fibrillation may also cause sudden cardiac arrest and lead to death if not treated immediately.
Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Suraj Kapa clears up common misconceptions about ventricular tachycardia.
Ventricular tachycardia care at Mayo Clinic
Jan. 11, 2017