SVT stands for Supra Ventricular Tachycardia, a problem in the hearts’ electrical system, which is a rapid heart rate of over 100 beats per minute (BPM). The heart will eventually slow down to its normal rate on its own or through medication usually administered in the hospital emergency room.
My first SVT episode occurred about twelve years ago while I was living in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. I was working outside in the hot sun all day volunteering at a yard sale fundraiser event. The day went by fast and I was not drinking enough water. When the event was over I went to the convenience store and brought a sports drink. No sooner had I guzzled the bottle, my heart rate took off like a rocket. It was very uncomfortable and I didn't know if it was the onset of a heart attack or what. It was like I could actually feel my heart rocking in my chest. We went to, our local hospital, where I learned about SVT. These episodes began occurring annually for me, sometimes more often with a heart beat topping out at around 200 bpm..
The cardiologist recommended vagal maneuvers. They are simple techniques you can do by yourself during an SVT episode such as: 1.) bearing down like you are having a bowel movement, 2.) coughing and 3.) immersing your hands and face in ice water. I've also tried deep breathing. Unfortunately for me, the vagal maneuvers never worked. The next course of treatment is to go to the nearest hospital emergency room where they do an EKG and an injection of Adenosine like this woman in the video below.
My cardiologist told me about the medication option. I would have to take meds daily for the rest of my life and even doing so, there would be no guarantee the SVT would not happen again.
The other option that I had been putting off, but chose to do at this time was an ablation. It's a minimally invasive, non-surgical, low-risk procedure. Catheters are inserted at the groin and neck and then routed into the heart. The problem area is identified and the tissue is typically burned.
I was nervous about getting my SVT ablation. It's not that I have a fear of surgery or anesthesia, but this is my heart! Although the risk of something going wrong is really low, you start to think...What if something does go wrong? What if they accidentally puncture a part of my heart of burn too much tissue? What if my heart stops? The ultimate risk, what if I die?
I mentioned I was going to the hospital on facebook and was appreciative of the support I received from my friends.
While in the car as my wife was driving me, I decided to re-frame the hospital experience. I wasn't "going to the hospital," I was going to a "hotel that was helping me with my heart while I was there." It reduced most of my nervousness and anxiety.
I can't praise the Christiana Hospital staff enough. Everyone I dealt with was friendly, personable, professional, and it was obvious they had my needs and comfort in mind. When the nurse asked me what I was getting done I jokingly told her "liposuction." She laughed and said "Yeah, I need that too." The staff explained everything and asked permission to do things often. They helped me feel at ease, which I really appreciated.
They had to shave me for the procedure. I thought it would be in the area of the catheter insertion points only, but they shaved my neck, chest, armpits, stomach and groin. That's not a problem, it just looks funny and I know it will be itchy when it grows back.
When it came time to go to the procedure room I realized how vulnerable I was. You literally place your life in the hands of strangers, hope they fix the problem and don't screw anything up while doing it. I surrendered to the process. There were about six people in the room, they all had masks on so all I could see were their eyes.. I was given an IV for anesthesia and an older woman with deep blue eyes got close to my face and asked how I was doing. She asked if I was nervous. I said "Yes, a little." She said that was ok because if I weren’t nervous at all, something wouldn't be right. She then started asking questions about what I did for work and then what I did for fun. Before I knew it, I was out cold. (I liked this transition better than counting down backwards from 200.)
I woke up in a room by myself with two nurses removing the catheters and applying pressure to make sure there was no bleeding. There were three catheters in my groin and one in my neck. The applying of pressure was the most unpleasant part of the procedure, but it was tolerable.
I had to stay in bed and keep my legs straight for about six hours and although not completely flat, my head was kept at a 30-degree angle. That was a little challenge when eating my ziti with sauce, a lot of it ended up on my hospital gown.
The Center for Heart & Vascular Health at Christiana Hospital is the only hospital in Delaware that has the capability to perform an ablation corrective procedure using a stereo taxis remote navigation system that cures atrial fibrillation in over 80% of patients.
I was released from the hospital the next morning at around 930. 'have to take aspirin every day for six weeks and I should have no more SVT. This was an easy procedure and if you are having issues like this, I highly recommend the ablation and Christiana Care Hospital.
If you have any questions, if you had SVT or an ablation, feel free to comment below.