Familial ventricular tachycardia (familial VT) is a hereditary condition that can cause a seemingly spontaneous rapid heart rate. This condition can cause sudden cardiac death, where the heart suddenly goes into cardiac arrest. Researchers have identified several genes which when changed (mutated) may cause familial ventricular tachycardia, but more genes are expected to be found because familial VT may also be caused by inherited heart defects or conditions. For example, familial VT may be caused by another condition called familial cardiomyopathy.
Symptoms of familial VT may include heart palpitations, light-headedness, sudden drops in blood pressure that cause unconsciousness (syncope), chest pain, and anxiety. Women seem to be affected more often than men.
To diagnose familial ventricular tachycardia, a doctor may look at your family history and use an electrocardiogram (EKG). An EKG monitors the heart’s electrical impulses. In those with familial VT, the EKG output will look different depending on whether it is due to inherited heart defects or heart condition. If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with familial VT, talk to your cardiologist (heart doctor) about the most current treatment options. To understand how the condition may run in your family or be passed down to your children, talk to a genetic counselor. Support groups are a good resource of information and can help connect you with others affected by familial ventricular tachycardia.