Objectives: We sought to determine the epidemiology and clinical significance of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) in the general population.
Background: Current knowledge of PSVT has been derived primarily from otherwise healthy patients referred to specialized centers.
Methods: We used the resources of the Marshfield Epidemiologic Study Area, a region covering practically all medical care received by its 50,000 residents. A review of 1,763 records identified prevalent cases as of July 1, 1991 and all new cases of PSVT diagnosed from that day until June 30, 1993. A mean follow-up period of 2 years was completed in all incident patients. Patients without other cardiovascular disease were labeled as having "lone PSVT."
Results: The prevalence was 2.25/1,000 persons and the incidence was 35/100,000 person-years (95% confidence interval, 23 to 47/100,000). Other cardiovascular disease was present in 90% of males and 48% of females (p = 0.0495). Compared with patients with other cardiovascular disease, those with lone PSVT were younger (mean 37 vs. 69 years, p = 0.0002), had a faster PSVT heart rate (mean 186 vs. 155 beats/min, p = 0.0006) and were more likely to have their condition first documented in the emergency room (69% vs. 30%, p = 0.0377). The onset of symptoms occurred during the childbearing years in 58% of females with lone PSVT versus 9% of females with other cardiovascular disease (p = 0.0272).
Conclusions: There are approximately 89,000 new cases/year and 570,000 persons with PSVT in the United States. In the general population, there are two distinct subsets of patients with PSVT: those with other cardiovascular disease and those with lone PSVT. Our data suggest etiologic heterogeneity in the pathogenesis of PSVT and the need for more population-based research on this common condition.