Tachycardia: PAT (PSVT)

PAT stands for paroxysmal atrial tachycardia. It is a type of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT). This means your heart suddenly starts beating very fast. This may feel like your heart is racing or pounding. Because it comes on so quickly, it is often scary. But this is usually not a dangerous condition. PAT can last seconds, minutes, or hours.

PAT can occur in otherwise healthy people who have used too much of a stimulant such as tobacco or caffeine. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cola, and some medicines. Some over-the-counter cold and sinus remedies, diet pills, and some herbal supplements can also overstimulate the heart. The street drugs cocaine and amphetamine are the most powerful heart stimulants. You must not use these.

Overactive thyroid and some types of heart valve disorders can also cause PAT. You may have tests done to find out if this is the cause if your healthcare provider suspects this.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Rest today. Go back to your normal activities as soon as you are feeling OK. Sometimes a long episode of PAT can leave you feeling tired and weak for a while.

  • To prevent having PAT come back, stay away from all the stimulants listed above. If you have trouble giving up coffee, switch to decaf. If you smoke, try to stop or at least switch to a filtered, low-nicotine type of cigarette while you look for a stop-smoking program.

  • If you have another episode of PAT, lie down and try to remain calm. These spells usually stop by themselves within a few minutes.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider within the week, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if your palpitations continue longer than normal.

Call 911

This is the fastest and safest way to get to the emergency department. The paramedics can also start treatment on the way to the hospital, if needed.

Call 911 or seek medical attention right away if any of the following occur

  • Chest pain or unusual shoulder, arm, neck, jaw, or back pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fainting or lightheadedness

  • Weakness

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