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What is Junctional Tachycardia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Junctional tachycardia is an unusually fast heart rhythm originating around the atrioventricular (AV) junction, a structure between the atria and ventricles of the heart that houses the AV node, an important part of the heart's natural pacemaker system. This particular heart rhythm is part of a larger family of rapid heart rhythms known as supraventricular tachycardias, so named because they originate above the ventricles of the heart. A number of issues can lead to junctional tachycardia in a patient.

A doctor can identify tachycardia simply by feeling a patient's pulse or listening to the heart and noting that the heartbeat is faster than it should be. To determine the type of tachycardia involved, it is necessary to conduct an electrocardiogram, where the electrical impulses from the heart are measured. These impulses form distinctive patterns on the ECG readout and the shape of the pattern can be used to identify the source of an abnormal heart rhythm.

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Some patients naturally have a mild junctional tachycardia and they may not require any medical intervention, although the abnormal heart rhythm will be noted in the patient's chart so it will not be a cause for alarm in the future. In other patients, the heart rhythm is a cause for concern, indicating a problem with the way the heart regulates itself. Medications can be used to control the heart rhythm, or the patient may need a mechanical pacemaker, an implanted device that takes over for the heart, or part of the heart, to regulate the heartbeat.

AV reentry and junctional ectopic tachycardia are two examples of junctional tachycardia documented in humans. Patients with these conditions will probably be advised to meet with a cardiologist for evaluation. The cardiologist can conduct some testing to determine the origins of the rapid heart rate, and work on a treatment plan to address the issue. Generally, the goal is to use minimally invasive treatments for the management of abnormal heart rhythms to reduce risks for the patient.

Patients with junctional tachycardia may need to observe some precautions when it comes to engaging in activities. A doctor can advise a patient on safe exercise and working conditions to help the patient avoid straining the heart, if there are concerns about this. Stress can also be a risk factor for the patient, as can activities like smoking. Keeping physically fit will help reduce loads on the heart and keep the patient's heart as healthy as possible.

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