Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a type of arrhythmia characterized by an extra electrical pathway (circuit) in your heart. As a result, the electrical signal may arrive at the ventricles too soon. The condition can lead to episodes of rapid heart rate (tachycardia or supraventricular tachycardia). Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is one of the most common causes of fast heart rate disorders in infants and children, and is believed to be a congenital heart defect.

Overview and Symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Fainting
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cardiac arrest (in rare cases)

In some cases of WPW, patients do not have any symptoms, or may only experience periodic or infrequent episodes of a rapid heart rate.

Tests to diagnose WPW may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which will show an extra pathway between the atria and ventricles of the heart (called a delta wave)
  • Electrophysiology (EP) study, to help pinpoint the arrhythmia
  • Holter monitor, to record your heartbeat


If you don't have any symptoms, you will not need treatment. If you are having episodes of tachycardia as a result of WPW, you may be able to be treated with medications.

Otherwise, catheter ablation is the most common method for interrupting an abnormal pathway: it destroys the area of the heart causing the tachycardia. Catheter ablation has a success rate of more than 90 percent.

Open-heart surgery may also provide a permanent cure for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Surgery is usually done only if the patient must have surgery for other reasons.

Arrhythmia Services

The expert electrophysiologists in the CVI offer care and treatment for the full range of conditions that cause an abnormal heartbeat.

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