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Vagal Maneuvers for a Fast Heart Rate

Topic Overview

Vagal maneuvers are used to try to slow an episode of fast heart rate. 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.

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

  • Gagging.
  • Holding your breath and bearing down (Valsalva maneuver).
  • Immersing your face in ice-cold water (diving reflex).
  • Coughing.

Be sure to have your doctor show you how to do these procedures correctly.

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.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
John M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Last Revised August 9, 2012

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