Idiopathic ventricular tachycardia. A review

Medicine (Baltimore). 1988 Sep;67(5):271-94. doi: 10.1097/00005792-198809000-00001.


Idiopathic or unexplained VT occurs in a small but important subset of patients without clinically evident heart disease. The majority of these patients appear to have a structurally normal heart. The cause of the arrhythmias in these individuals is unclear and may never be recognized. Other patients with this condition may have minor abnormalities not sufficient to impair overall cardiac function. The significance of these abnormalities to the genesis of the arrhythmia is uncertain. Whether patients with minor abnormalities are more likely to harbor covert heart disease such as myocarditis or a focal defect is not known, nor is it resolved whether such patients warrant a more aggressive search for a structural cause. The question that remains in any patient not subjected to surgical or pathological exploration is whether undetermined heart disease is responsible for the arrhythmia. Continued correlation between functional (electrophysiological) and structural (pathological) data will provide meaningful information concerning the pathophysiology (substrate) of these arrhythmias. Because of the preservation of normal cardiac function, these arrhythmias are generally well-tolerated. Although the condition is usually associated with a favorable prognosis, the occasional deaths reported in patients with apparently idiopathic ventricular arrhythmias may not permit calling this condition benign. It would be important to know the extent to which unrecognized abnormalities play a role in the genesis of these tachycardias, and whether such patients are more predisposed to fatal arrhythmias or have a different natural history. If cases involving undetermined or covert heart disease were excluded from consideration, then a relatively homogeneous disease-free group may be identified with a truly benign condition and a uniformly favorable prognosis. In these cases, a primary electrical abnormality may prove to be the basis for the arrhythmia. These issues remain to be elucidated in future studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomyopathies / complications
  • Coronary Disease / complications
  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart Ventricles
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse / complications
  • Myocarditis / complications
  • Prognosis
  • Tachycardia* / complications
  • Tachycardia* / diagnosis
  • Tachycardia* / physiopathology
  • Tachycardia* / therapy