Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome

Also known as: WPW syndrome, WPW pattern, cardiac arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat, accessory pathway syndrome.

What is Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a rare disorder of the heart's electrical system, present at birth, where, rather than the electrical signals (those make the heart chambers contract) going down their normal pathway, there is an extra electrical pathway (also called an accessory pathway) between the chambers of the heart.

What causes Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?

In most children the cause of WPW is unknown. In a few patients it is a genetic abnormality inherited from a child's parents. It may also be associated with other medical conditions.


What are the signs/symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?

Children with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome may or may not have any symptoms. Typical symptoms include:

  • rapid or irregular pounding heartbeats (which can last anywhere from several seconds to several hours)
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • fainting (syncope)
  • sweating
  • chest pain or tightness
  • heart palpitations


What are Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome care options?

Many children need no treatment; when needed, self help maneuvers such as coughing, holding one's breath or ice on the face may slow the heartbeat. Other treatments include medications to slow or regulate the hearts’ beat, radiofrequency ablation (a procedure which causes a scar in the heart’s abnormal pathway, allowing the heart to beat normally), and cardioversion (which electrically shocks the heart).

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 2:06:08 PM


Jason Katz, MD of Nicklaus Children's Hospital is a pediatric cardiologist with The Heart Program and the Director of the Pediatric Cardiac Fellowship Program.

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