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Symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome can cause these problems with your child’s heartbeat:

  • Their heart beats too quickly (tachycardia, pronounced tack-ih-CARD-ee-ah).
  • Their heartbeat is irregular — the speed and pattern change.
  • They have palpitations.

You and your child may or may not notice any of these problems with their heartbeat. Sometimes families have no idea their child has WPW syndrome until it’s noticed during a routine exam or when the child has electrocardiogram (ECG) for some other reason.

Because the heartbeat affects blood flow, some arrhythmias can cause these symptoms:

  • Feeling faint, weak, lightheaded or dizzy
  • Being short of breath
  • Having chest pain
  • Sweating

Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome Diagnosis

To diagnose WPW syndrome, your doctor will examine your child, check their heartbeat and use a stethoscope to listen to their heart.

The doctor will ask for details about any symptoms your child has, their health history and your family health history.

Some children with this condition have episodes of arrhythmia, or a racing heart rate, only once in a while. So the condition can be hard to diagnose.

To learn about the electrical activity in your child’s heart, the doctor will use electrocardiogram (ECG).

If an abnormal heartbeat does not happen during this test, your child may need to wear a portable ECG device for a while.

A device called a Holter monitor can record their heart’s activity for 24 hours. Another device, called an event record, can be turned on by your child when they feel a problem with their heart rhythm.

To get more information about how your child’s heart looks and works, they may need other tests, like exercise testing and electrophysiology studies to help identify the location of the extra electrical pathway in their heart.

They may also need chest X-rays or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the heart, angiography and echocardiography.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

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Spring 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

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Download Spring 2014 (PDF)