New nasal spray may stop rapid heart rhythm

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An experimental nasal spray shows promise for quickly treating an abnormally fast heart rhythm known as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), a new study reports.

Caused by an electrical misfire that overrides the heart's natural pacemaker, SVT occurs unpredictably, lasting anywhere from minutes to hours. Although usually harmless, the condition can make people dizzy or lightheaded. People with persistent SVT usually need to go to an emergency room for an injection of a drug to slow the heart.

As described in the July 31 Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers tested a nasal spray containing a placebo or different amounts of a drug called etripamil in 104 people with SVT. Within 15 minutes after administration, 65% to 95% of people who took etripamil had a normal heart rhythm, compared with just 35% of those who got the placebo.

The findings support future development of the drug, which might one day allow people to treat themselves at home.

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