Long QT Syndrome

When the heart takes longer than it should to “recharge” between heartbeats, the condition is called long QT syndrome. The longer interval changes the timing of the heartbeat and can cause abnormal or dangerous rhythms.

Long QT syndrome, also sometimes called QT prolongation, can be a lifelong condition. Children who have it will need regular checkups with a pediatric cardiologist.

Some kids are born with long QT syndrome. Others may get it after taking certain medications. Long QT syndrome can affect people of all ages, but it is sometimes more serious in children. Long QT syndrome can be diagnosed with an electrocardiogram (ECG). It is important that the diagnosis of long QT syndrome is made early in life in order to prevent severe manifestations of the syndrome.

The specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, have the experience and skills to diagnose and provide care for long QT syndrome.

The board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute will likely prescribe medication, diet changes and exercise to help children with long QT syndrome stay healthy.

Norton Children’s has a network of outreach diagnostic and treatment services conveniently located throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Long QT Syndrome Symptoms

Some kids with long QT syndrome have no symptoms. Others may feel changes in their heartbeat, feel lightheaded at times, faint or have a seizure. Unfortunately, in some severe cases, long QT syndrome may even cause sudden death.

Stress, exercise or being startled can bring on symptoms. Symptoms also can occur after taking certain medications or having electrolyte abnormalities. Sometimes symptoms come on suddenly and without warning.

Long QT syndrome may be diagnosed through a electrocardiogram (ECG). Even an ECG done for a different reason can identify long QT syndrome. Some children have a family history of long QT syndrome and should have an ECG to look for the abnormality. Others may learn that they have the condition through genetic testing.

Long QT Syndrome Treatment

Long QT syndrome often can be treated with beta blocker medications. Commonly prescribed to patients with heart rhythm and blood pressure conditions, these medications help slow the heart rate and make the long QT syndrome rhythm less likely to occur.

Sometimes kids have to have a small defibrillator implanted in order to prevent sudden death. If a child has a dangerous heart rhythm, the device can reset the heart back into a normal rhythm.

For children who are born with long QT syndrome, treatment usually won’t shorten the QT interval. But it can lower the risk of life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms and fainting.

A Norton Children’s Heart Institute pediatric cardiologist can evaluate your child and determine if he or she can participate in sports and other activities.

If your child has long QT syndrome, certain medicines should be avoided. Check with your child’s pediatric cardiologist to find out which medicines are safe.

Why Choose Norton Children’s Heart Institute

The Adult Congenital Heart Association has recognized Norton Children's Heart Institute for its expertise treating adult congenital heart disease.

  • Norton Children’s Hospital has been a pioneer in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, performing Kentucky’s first pediatric heart transplant in 1986 and becoming the second site in the United States to perform an infant heart transplant.
  • The American Board of Thoracic Surgery has certified our cardiothoracic surgeons in congenital heart surgery.
  • The Adult Congenital Heart Association has accredited Norton Children’s Heart Institute’s Adult Congenital Heart Program as the only comprehensive care center in Kentucky and Indiana treating adults born with a heart defect.
  • More than 5,000 children a year visit Norton Children’s Heart Institute for advanced heart care.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute has offices across Kentucky and Southern Indiana to bring quality pediatric heart care closer to home.
  • The Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at Norton Children’s Hospital is the largest dedicated CICU in Kentucky, equipped with 17 private rooms and the newest technology available for heart care.
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