All patients with supraventricular tachycardia during the first 12 months of life who presented between 1977 and 1988 were identified by a retrospective survey of records in this hospital and by a questionnaire sent to paediatricians in the Northern region. Twenty two of 29 patients (76%) were in heart failure and seven (24%) had cardiogenic shock. Seven patients (24%) were free of symptoms. All had narrow QRS tachycardia at 215-315 beats/minute (mean (SD) 292 (21)). Initial treatment included digoxin (effective in seven of 14 patients, with overdose in three), verapamil (effective in three of three but fatal in one), cardioversion (effective in all 10 who were treated in this way), iced water applied to the face (effective in all 16 patients on 53 of 59 occasions, 90%). Initial treatment in local hospitals was less effective and associated with more complications than that given in the regional referral centre. Digoxin is often ineffective, return to sinus rhythm is delayed, and overdosing is common. Cardioversion is effective but tachycardia often recurs. Iced water is safe and effective, and should become the treatment of choice for termination of supraventricular tachycardia in neonates and young infants.
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