Since I was seventeen I have experienced sudden episodes of rapid, strong heartbeat, chest pain and black outs. I'm a 45 year old mother of
a teenage girl. I'm 5' 7" at 180 pounds.
No one has ever been able to tell me what's wrong. These episodes
come on for no apparent reason; sometimes I'm stressed, other times
I'm quite relaxed. I've never had one when I was sitting or lying
down, only while standing.
Once, in the 80's, I was walking casually to an appoinment for
an EKG (or ECG?) when suddenly it hit me again but before I got
to the clinic I passed out in the snow. I was cold when I regained consciousness and by the time I made it to the clinic, they
hooked me up and said they found nothing too unusual.
Another time I was it was 99 degrees, unrelenting sun, I had no
time to drink water and suddenly, I felt like a fist punched me
in the chest and I experienced the pain and pounding heart rate. Paramedics took me to the Ottawa Heart Institute.
The nurse who saw me first seemed astounded and said my heart
was beating 240 beats a minute. They hooked me up and started
an IV but after about two hours the heartbeat just stopped.
Then around four seconds later it started up again, still like
a hammer, but irregular and very slow.
The doctor suggested it was paroxysmal tachycardia.
It has happened several times since, none of those times did
I seek medical help because I was alone with no one to help.
Once, the episode lasted two days while my daughter was away
at a friend's.
Two weeks ago I was headed to a routine meeting by bus.
As I boarded, I felt the punch to the chest again. Now, I'm
no hypochondriac, in fact I recall I was thinking, "Darn,
this hurts. I wonder if I'll get through this meeting."
Finally I thought, "This is ridiculous. You can't go to a
meeting clutching your chest, sweating profusely and breathing
like an asthmatic!" So I got off the bus at the first walk-in
clinic. They wanted me to go to the hospital.
I went home and called my family doctor. She wasn't there but
left a message on my machine to see a heart specialist for a
stress test. They put me on a bicycle hooked up to the monitor.
I told them I don't have the problem when I exercise but they
After the test I waited outside the doctor's office but the nurse
came and said the doctor didn't need to talk to me and I should
go home. I couldn't even question him about what was wrong.
As I thought, the results were - nothing out of the ordinary.
They never asked my health history, what my symptoms were, how many
times it had happened before. If it would have helped, I would
have mentioned in 1985 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
For 12 years I took synthroid but in 1997 I had a heart episode,
I was tested for my thyroid and gradually, my synthroid was reduced
until I was told not to take it anymore. I haven't had synthroid since.
I regret this inquiry is so long, but I wanted to give you all the information I could think of to help. I'm proud to say I'm
extremely healthy otherwise, in my own humble opinion. But I worry
a little about what to do next time. What if next time I pass out
again? What if they tell me it's nothing again? Am I wasting
people's time? Your suggestions would be most appreciated.
Thank you kindly.
Dear Katherine, thank you for your question. I think you do have a form of paroxysmal tachycardia that is causing your episodes. However, your heart rhythm needs to be recorded during such an episode to determine what type of rhythm you are having and how best to treat it. Most likely, you have supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) which originates from the atria of the heart. SVT can usually be eliminated through a catether-based procedure where radio wave energy is applied directly to the abnormal electrical pathway that causes the tachycardia. Thus, I think you should have a thorough reevaluation, you should find out the results of your recent stress test, and you should wear an event monitor for 2-4 weeks to hopefully "catch" and episode of tachycardia.
I hope you find this information useful. Information provided in the heart forum is for general purposes only. Only your physician can provide specific diagnoses and therapies. Please feel free to write back with additional questions. Good luck.
If you would like to make an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE or inquire online by using the Heart Center website at www.ccf.org/heartcenter. The Heart Center website contains a directory of the cardiology staff that can be used to select the physician best suited to address your cardiac problem.
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