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Vagal Maneuvers for Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

Topic Overview

Vagal maneuvers are used to try to slow an episode of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). These simple maneuvers stimulate the vagus nerve, sometimes resulting in slowed conduction of electrical impulses through the atrioventricular (AV) node of the heart. Be sure to talk to your doctor before trying these.

Your doctor can show you how to do these procedures safely. Your doctor may recommend that you do these while you lie down on your back.

Vagal maneuvers that you can try to slow your fast heart rate include:

  • Bearing down. Bearing down means that you try to breathe out with your stomach muscles but you don't let air out of your nose or mouth.
  • Putting an ice-cold, wet towel on your face.
  • Coughing or gagging.

In addition to these, your doctor may sometimes try another vagal maneuver (called carotid sinus massage) in the emergency room to help slow your heart rate. This technique should only be performed by a doctor.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Calkins H (2011). Supraventricular tachycardia: Atrioventricular nodal reentry and Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's the Heart, 13th ed., vol. 1, pp. 987–1005. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Page RL, et al. (2015). 2015 ACC/AHA/HRS guideline for the management of adult patients with supraventricular tachycardia: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. Circulation. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000311. Accessed September 23, 2015.

Credits

Current as of: April 9, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
John M. Miller MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology

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