Anyone had SVT on a plane/train/bus/while travelling???

Posted , 6 users are following.

So I have an amazing opportunity to expand my career abroad. In many ways it's a make-it-or-break-it kind of opportunity that only comes along once. The only thing holding me back is that the flight is roughly 12 hours. My SVT used to be very severe, and could only be reverted with adenosine. Now I'm on Verapamil, and I haven't had a severe episode since I started my current dose, which is a good thing. I only had one breakthrough episode that reverted quickly, and then my dose was increased, and it hasn't happened again. So haven't had an episode for 2 years. But I have ectopics often. And I worry that the stress of flying might bring the SVT on.

What happens if a flyer gets SVT onboard? I know there's medical equipment on most planes, but not adenosine, or an ECG, or anything specific to arrhythmia. Also, SVT is such an invisible condition, and I look very healthy. I'm in my early twenties. I worry that if SVT were to happen, no one would take me seriously... I would definitely alert the flight attendant, but I'm afraid they would just shrug it off and think I was just an anxious flyer, and not realise that I'd genuinely need help, at least at some point. I was in SVT for up to 4 hours at one time, and I know the heart can take it. But cardiologists have told me that being in SVT longer than 10 hours or so can cause irreversible damage to the heart, possibly causing the early stages heart failure (I don't have any studies to reference, but two cardiologists have told me this). Not to mention that it would be an overall daunting experience.

I usually don't let SVT stop me from doing things, but flying just seems like a challenge.

I know airplanes make emergency landings for people suffering stroke or heart attack etc., but I just somehow doubt they'd do it for someone with SVT, especially because it's a lesser-known condition. Most people have no idea what it means when you say "SVT", and a lot of the time they think it's something to do with anxiety. I would not want to cause an airplane to make an emergency landing, not at all. I just hope they have some sort of protocol for when a flyer presents with arrhythmia that isn't lethal but should be reverted within a few hours.

**Has anyone here had SVT whilst flying or travelling, maybe on a long train or bus ride? What was your experience? **The good thing is that the health care at my destination is top notch, so I'd feel very safe and cared for there, even better than where I'm living now. So my only worry is the 12 hours in the air.

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9 Replies

  • Posted

    Hey Heart,

    I'm sorry to hear your episodes can get so severe. I know how scary that is. I'm in similar shoes as you, just 43 and fit (gosh i miss my 20's)... my last Major SVT was on a plane from Louisiana to Boise, with 4 hours in The air before connecting IN Denver. It started right as the plane locked doors and was backing up top take off. i just stood up, grabbed my backpack and started walking down the aisle. The flight attendant immediately told me to sit, i said i was having chest pain and they went into emergency mode, called cockpit and ambulance and immediately put the plane back to let me out. ambulance to ER where they told me it was just an SVT and i would be fine. This experience scarred me psychologically for about 6 months i was too afraid to fly. my wife flee to Louisiana and we drove a rental all the way back to Boise. Due to the nature of my job i couldnt avoid flying for too long and as i started up on small flights with a tinyy bot of xanax, it got better. By the way this is what also pushed me passed the tipping point to get cardiac ablation. havent had an SVT since the procedure last July.

    My wife and I are flying to Japan in a couple of weeks and i completely understand your concern (10 hour flight for us). even though i havent had svts since ablation. belly breathing helped me a lot when i started flying again, being distracted with journaling also helped, downloading some really engaging podcasts also helped, and if all else failed i took 1/4 of the xanax i got an rx for (which waz already the lowest dose), to calm my nerves.In 2019 I've flown to: Seattle, Portland 3X, Sacramento 2X, salt lake, los Angeles 2X, San Fransisco 2X, Denver 3X, Dallas 2X, Miami, New York 2X, Boston, Hartford, Providence, Hawaii, Vancouver BC 2X,, Anaheim, Pleasanton, and Japan in a couple weeks! I hope this helps.

    • Posted

      Hey Shige, thanks so much for sharing your experience! It really helps! Sounds like you had a rough experience there on the plane, but sounds like it was thankfully okay in the end. I've received a prescription for Xanax before, but have never tried taking it. May I ask if you take any SVT medications with the Xanax? I worry that maybe Xanax would interfere with my Verapamil, especially because I take such a high dose of it. SVT is such a trying condition... no one really understands what it's like unless they've been through it themselves. Sometimes when I think about the 12 hour flight, I feel like it'll be no problem. But then whenever I get an ectopic beat or a flutter, I immediately think how unfit I feel for the flight.

      Theoretically speaking, anyone with SVT can fly anywhere... but it's just a question of how much potential discomfort one is willing to undergo.

      But it's really great that you've gotten into the swing of flying again!

      By the way, there is a new SVT drug being developed called Etripamil... it's a self-administered nasal spray that's supposed to terminate an episode very quickly. Hopefully it'll be of help to us SVT people in the future.

      In any case, I wish you a safe and happily "uneventful" flight to Japan!

    • Posted


      I just called to day regarding the nasal spray study. this study is being done in the US and Canada. I am fortunate that one of the hospitals that is involved is only an hour away. I left a message that I was interested in getting some information on the study. Hopefully I get call back tomorrow

    • Posted

      Hi Lolasmom, that's awesome. Let us know how it goes! This nasal spray could really turn out to be a game changer.

    • Posted

      Yes, I am really excited to get some information on it If she does not call me back tomorrow, I will email her.

      I want to finds out what types of tachy this is for

      Yes, I will let you know

    • Posted

      hey heart. i havent take xanax in probably 6 months. when i did take it the few times it just calmed me down. since i had an ablation i dont take any rx for SVT (although cardiologist told me to stay and diltiazem 120mgXT cuz i have slight hypertension). off to tokyo tomorrow, got the xanax just in case.

  • Posted

    Would you technically be alright if you were to theoretically sit through the flight with an SVT episode?There are people in this study who report having episodes of >12 hours

    I have read an article that says 'Over time, untreated and frequent episodes of supraventricular tachycardia may weaken the heart and lead to heart failure' but this seem to suggest a much longer period than 12 hours involving multiple long episodes.

    I have also read alot about PVC/PACs which i have at times; heart failure can occurs with these but they need to occur very frequently and over a very long period of time BUT this is a Reversible heart failure if you get the condition under control. This fact gave me great comfort; i would imagine it being the same for SVT.

  • Posted

    Well, having had sporadic SVT since 1988 when I was 24, I can sympathise.

    Not on a plane, but while working in Slovakia I had an episode after a 4-year gap. Went to A&E and mentioned Verapamil instead of Adenosine but they had none of the former. I told them Adenosine didn't work, but got it anyway. It didn't work. They transferred me to the cardiac unit and mentioned cardioversion as a possibility which scared the wits out of me. Fortunately, lying in the bed for 30 mins the SVT went away. (I had taken 4 crushed Verapamil tablets before I made my way to the hospital.)

    This takes me back to 2019 when I was in Kurdistan. One week I had THREE SVT episodes. The first two, I went to the small local hospital and thank God/Allah they had Verapamil. The third time, I though what on earth. I had been prescribed Verapamil tablets for my blood pressure. I took one as usual, then went to the university, the SVT came on and I walked the 10 mins back to my flat. I took another Verapamil tablet then read somewhere on the internet about crushing a few in water in extermis. I crushed 3 tablets and drank them in water. I thought |I would give this ca. 30mins to work before going to the local A&E again. I brewed a cup of tea, made a couple of slices of toast and ate them at my desk. Then I decided to have a lie-down on the sofa and wait and see. Ca. 20mins later I felt the SVT ease away.

    There is a doctrine called the 'pill-in-the-pocket' for uncommon SVT episodes. The average gap between mine has been 4-6 years (apart from the Kurdistan anomaly). Has anyone ever taken crushed Verapamil tablets in extremis (either on a plane or not). Now I always take a small box of 75mg tablets with me.

    I don't know if the Verapamil was slow acting in Slovakia. The nurse said it might have been the three doses of Adenosine (but that has a very short active span in the body).

  • Posted

    dear SVT patients. i am sympathizing with all of you. I have the same condition and have been going to ER so many times. they give me a shot of Adenosine and discharge me.

    the potential drug that might be coming soon for SVT is Etrapamil. it is a calcium channel blocker inhaler and maybe it will help us.

    i cancelled my Europe trip just SVT, i was afraid to get it on a long flight and nothing could be done.

    i was looking into Carnival Cruise ship and it is possible that they may have Adenosine on board. If so, maybe we can use that as means for travel.

    very very frustrating. Some doctors say do ablation but i am scared of it even though it has a very good success rate fir SVT.

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