What is vagal maneuvers?

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Vagal maneuvers for supraventricular tachycardia (SVT): Overview

Vagal maneuvers are used to try to slow an episode of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). These simple maneuvers stimulate the vagus nerve. This can sometimes slow the conduction of electrical impulses through the atrioventricular (AV) node of the heart. Be sure to talk to your doctor before trying these.

Your doctor can show you how to do these procedures safely. Your doctor may recommend that you do these while you lie down on your back.

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

  • Bearing down. Bearing down means that you try to breathe out with your stomach muscles but you don't let air out of your nose or mouth.
  • Putting an ice-cold, wet towel on your face.
  • Coughing or gagging.

Along with 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.

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