Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) Syndrome | MedStar Health

Treatment for an extra electrical pathway in the heart

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, or WPW syndrome, is a problem with the way electrical signals travel through the heart. Normally, these signals travel from the top of the heart to the bottom through a single electrical connection. If you have WPW syndrome, your heart has an extra pathway, or connection, and signals can either travel down both paths at the same time or create a rapid regular or irregular rhythm. In rare instances, these rhythm disorders can be associated with life-threatening problems.

WPW syndrome is a heart condition that’s present from birth and puts patients at greater risk for problems with their hearts’ rhythms. Our electrophysiology program is the region’s leading referral program for heart rhythm disorders and can treat even the most complex conditions.

What are the symptoms and complications of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

WPW syndrome symptoms can include:

If you have WPW syndrome, you may develop a type of fast heartbeat called supraventricular tachycardia. You also may be at risk for atrial fibrillation (AFib).


Your doctor will order an electrocardiogram to look for abnormal patterns in your heart’s electrical signals. Other tests can help confirm a diagnosis of WPW syndrome.

Cardiac catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

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 an an arrhythmia).

Event monitors

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

Holter monitors

A Holter monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. The test is 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.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, uses a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

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.

Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)

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


Minor cases of WPW syndrome may not need treatment. If your symptoms are frequent or severe, your doctor may recommend medications or procedures to help slow your heart’s rhythm.

Cardiac ablation

Cardiac ablation uses heat or cold to destroy heart tissue causing abnormal heart rhythms known as arrhythmias.

Congenital heart disease treatments

Treatments for congenital heart conditions range from atrial septal defect and patent foramen ovale closures to cardiac ablations and heart valve replacements to heart transplants.

Electrical cardioversion

Electrical cardioversion uses electrical shocks to treat 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.