Ectopic Atrial Tachycardia (EAT) in Children

Ectopic atrial tachycardia (EAT), sometimes called atrial tachycardia (AT), is an abnormally fast heart rate originating from the top of the heart.

Ectopic atrial tachycardia (EAT), sometimes called atrial tachycardia (AT), is an abnormally fast heart rate originating from the top of the heart. It is caused when a group of cells in the heart becomes abnormally active and starts sending out electrical signals faster than the sinus node, the heart's natural pacemaker.

Most patients have only one spot that causes their EAT, but some patients can have multiple spots. EAT can occur in patients with structurally normal hearts but is more common in patients with congenital heart disease.

Symptoms & Signs

  • Palpitations (the feeling of a rapid or erratic heartbeat while sitting quietly or at rest, or a faster than normal heart rate during exercise)
  • Dizziness
  • Turning pale
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart pounding
  • Feeling pulsations in the throat
  • Infants and toddlers may have poor feeding with fussiness, sweating, or changes in color
  • Some patients with EAT may not experience any symptoms at all and are only diagnosed incidentally while being evaluated for some other reason


EAT is diagnosed when it is seen on a heart rhythm recording. Your EP team may use one or multiple tools to help diagnose EAT similar to how other forms of SVT are diagnosed. These could include, but are not limited to:

Sometimes, patients with EAT can develop cardiomyopathy, or a weakened ability of the heart to pump blood effectively. Patients who are diagnosed with unexplained cardiomyopathy at first may end up being found during their cardiac evaluation to also have EAT.


Your EP team may prescribe medication for the treatment of EAT. Medication is not a cure but can decrease the number of episodes and help to control symptoms. The most common type of medication used for EAT is beta-blockers, but other kinds of medication can be used if beta-blockers are not effective enough. Depending on the medication being used, your child may need to be admitted to the hospital when starting treatment or changing doses.

In the case of infants and very young children, sometimes the spot in the heart causing the EAT will eventually "burn out" and the arrhythmia will go away on its own. These patients may take medications for years and then be carefully weaned off their medications with close monitoring by their cardiologist to make sure the arrhythmia doesn’t come back.

Many patients with EAT will need to or may choose to have an ablation, which is a procedure is designed to eliminate the spot in the heart causing the EAT. If this is successful, the procedure cures the patient of their EAT without the need for medication going forward. However, in order to find where the EAT is coming from in the heart, your EP team will need to see the EAT active during the procedure. The spots in the heart that cause EAT frequently "go to sleep’ with general anesthesia, so the chance of successfully ablating the EAT is highest when the patient is in a lighter state called "conscious sedation" or has no sedation or anesthesia at all. Since small children require general anesthesia to undergo an ablation, your EP team may have your child take medications to control their EAT until they are old enough to attempt an ablation with conscious sedation.

Some patients and families may choose not to take medications and not undergo an ablation procedure. This decision should be discussed closely with your treatment team.

Lifestyle Changes

EAT is typically triggered by various forms of stress on the body, so patients are generally advised to avoid known triggers. This typically means limiting the amount of caffeine in their diet and maintaining proper hydration and nutrition. Sometimes, fever can trigger episodes of EAT, so parents may be advised to treat fever aggressively with over-the-counter medications or to monitor patients with fever very closely for symptoms of EAT.

Activity restrictions are generally not required for patients with EAT unless exercise is known to specifically trigger the patient's EAT or causes more severe symptoms.

Keep Exploring

Heart Rhythm Disorders
Millions of people experience irregular or abnormal heartbeats, called arrhythmias, at some point in their lives. Most of the time, they are harmless and happen in healthy people free of heart disease. However, some abnormal heart rhythms can be serious or even deadly. Having other types of heart disease can also increase the risk of arrhythmias.
Pediatrics and Congenital Heart Disease (CHD)
This section is for pediatric patients and families living with heart rhythm disorders and heart rhythm disorders related to congenital heart disease (CHD).
Early Warning Signs
If you are experiencing a racing, pounding, rumbling or flopping feeling in your chest or if you have been fainting, having repeated dizzy spells, feeling lightheaded or you are extremely fatigued, it's time to see a doctor to discuss your heart health.
Common Treatments
Learning about the underlying cause of any heart rhythm disorder provides the basis for selecting the best treatment plan. Information and knowledge about care options, and their risks and benefits help you work with your health care provider to make the best choices.
Since other heart disorders increase the risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms, lifestyle changes often are recommended. Living a “heart healthy” lifestyle can ease the symptoms experienced with heart rhythm disorders and other heart disorders, and can be beneficial to overall patient health.
The Normal Heart
The heart is a fist-sized muscle that pumps blood through the body 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without rest. The normal heart is made up of four parts: two atria on the top of the heart (right atrium and left atrium), and two ventricles (right ventricle and left ventricle) which are the muscular chambers on the bottom of the heart that provide the major power to pump blood.