Tachycardia | Causes and Symptoms | MedStar Health

A condition in which the heart beats too fast

A normal heart beats at 60 to 100 beats per minute. If you have tachycardia, your heart beats more than 100 beats per minute while at rest. This type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) occurs when there are problems with the electrical signals in the heart.

Our Cardiac Electrophysiology Program is an internationally recognized leader in caring for patients with heart rhythm problems, including the many types of tachycardia, such as:

  • Atrial fibrillation, a fast, irregular heartbeat caused by irregular electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart (atria)

  • Atrial flutter, a heartbeat that is faster than normal but consistent and is caused by abnormal electrical signals in the atria

  • Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), a fast heartbeat that is caused by the signals located above the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles)

  • Ventricular fibrillation, a fast, irregular heartbeat that causes the ventricles to quiver instead of pumping blood effectively

  • Ventricular tachycardia, a fast heartbeat that is caused by abnormal electrical signals in the ventricles

What are the symptoms of tachycardia?

Our patients describe tachycardia as feeling like their heart is racing. Because the heart is not operating efficiently and depriving the body of oxygen, the condition also can cause lightheadedness, weakness, dizziness, chest pain, confusion, and even fainting.

Who is at risk for tachycardia?

Damage to the heart muscle or valves due to heart disease or a congenital heart defect puts you at greater risk for developing tachycardia. Other factors that can play a role include:

  • Older age

  • Excessive use of caffeine or alcohol

  • Family history

  • Excessive use of caffeine

  • High blood pressure

  • Overstraining the heart during exercise or fever

  • Smoking, drug, or alcohol use

  • Stress or anxiety


Diagnosing tachycardia is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Electrophysiology Testing

Electrophysiology testing is used to evaluate the cause and location of an abnormal heartbeat (known as an arrhythmia).

Event Monitors

An event monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but whereas an electrocardiogram takes place over a few minutes, an event monitor measures heart rhythms over a much longer time.


A fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that uses a continuous X-ray beam passed through the body to create real-time, moving images of your internal structures.

Holter Monitors

A Holter monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but whereas an electrocardiogram records over a few minutes, a Holter monitor records over the course of a day or two.

Loop Recorder

A loop recorder is a device that’s implanted underneath the skin of your chest to record your heart rhythm for up to three years.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.

Tilt Table Test

Tilt table testing allows your doctor to determine the cause of explained fainting while monitoring changes in your blood pressure and heart rate while tilted at different angles.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

Transesophageal echocardiogram allows us to take very detailed images of your heart structure from a probe in your esophagus.


Your individualized treatment plan will depend on the type and severity of your tachycardia. It may include lifestyle modifications, medication, or more advanced treatments.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a device implanted below your collarbone that monitors your heart’s rhythm. When it detects an abnormal rhythm, it delivers an electrical impulse or shock to the heart to correct it.

Leadless Pacemakers

A leadless pacemaker is a small capsule placed in the heart’s right ventricle that delivers an electric pulse to regulate the heartbeat.


A pacemaker is a device that helps control various types of heart rhythm disorders.

Additional information

Electrophysiology Program

We are leaders in developing and using the latest procedures and technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders, and our cardiac electrophysiology laboratory is one of the most sophisticated in North America.

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.