Atrioventricular Node Reentry Supraventricular Tachycardia Clinical Presentation

Updated: Jan 25, 2022
  • Author: Glenn T Wetzel, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Stuart Berger, MD  more...
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Presenting symptoms vary depending on age, heart rate, duration, and underlying heart condition. Tachycardia rates can be very dependent on the adrenergic state. Children presenting with tachycardia during exercise may have much faster rates.

Patients with atrioventricular node reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT) may be more symptomatic than those with other mechanisms of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) due to the simultaneous depolarization of the atrial and ventricular myocardium, which causes the occurrence of atrial contraction against a closed AV valve and loss of the atrial contribution to a complete diastolic filling. [11, 12] A pounding sensation in the neck (ie, neck pulsations) is fairly unique to the presence of AVNRT and considered to be the result of cannon A waves when the atrium contracts against a simultaneously contracting ventricle.

Symptoms of congestive heart failure in the infant may include restlessness, feeding problems, and diaphoresis. Shock may occur when a hemodynamically significant tachyarrhythmia goes unrecognized and untreated for variable amounts of time (from a few hours to days).

In the older child, symptoms may include chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and fatigue.

Occasionally, adult patients may present with syncope or severe presyncope.


Physical Examination

Promptly evaluate the hemodynamic state of children presenting with tachyarrhythmia. The degree of hemodynamic compromise is usually determined by numerous factors, including age, heart rate, duration of the arrhythmia, and the presence or absence of structural heart disease.

Note the following:

  • Evaluate infants for signs of congestive heart failure, such as tachypnea, retractions, rales, liver enlargement, decreased pulse, and poor perfusion.

  • Cardiogenic shock with hypotension, metabolic acidosis, ventricular dysfunction, and pulmonary edema may occur.

  • Physical examination findings of the older child without underlying heart disease may be normal except for the fast heart rate.

  • The patient may exhibit tachypnea, pallor, and evidence of jugular venous pulsations caused by asynchrony of atrial and ventricular contractions (ie, the atrium contracting against a closed atrioventricular valve).

  • Patients with structural heart disease and ventricular dysfunction may have more severe hemodynamic compromise upon presentation because they have limited myocardial reserves and do not tolerate tachycardia and the absence of AV synchrony for long periods.