Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)

What is Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

In Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW) an abnormal electrical pathway directly connects the atria (the top chambers of the heart) to the ventricles (the bottom chambers of the heart), bypassing the atrioventricular (AV) node.

In a healthy heart, the AV node slows electrical impulses.  So in a patient with WPW, electrical impulses arrive at the ventricles too early, disturbing the normal heart rhythm.


WPW is thought to be caused by a small heart muscle fibre that forms slightly out of place during development in the womb. There is very little evidence of any genetic form of WPW.


People with WPW are at risk of developing a potentially dangerous rapid heart rhythm.


WPW can be diagnosed from a collection of abnormalities that show up together on a simple 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) test. If your doctor suspects you have a concealed form of WPW he will advise you to have an adenosine challenge to confirm your diagnosis.

Adenosine is a naturally occurring substance found in all of us. The adenosine briefly blocks normal conduction through the AV node, which slows your heart rate and unmasks ECG changes in patients who have a concealed form of WPW.

Your doctor will administer the drug through a vein in your arm and record your ECG. The ECG will record how your heart reacts to the adenosine that allows the doctor to collect detailed information about the cause of your potential arrhythmia.


Patients diagnosed with WPW frequently undergo an electrophysiology study and radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation is a curative procedure that will destroy the extra pathway that causes the arrhythmia.

Following discharge from hospital patients are routinely able to return to normal daily activities, including returning to work.

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