The ice bucket challenge: The best solution to SVT

Not one to waste an educational opportunity I used my ‘ice-bucket’ challenge video to talk about another use of ice-buckets…


Children in Supra-ventricular Tachycardia (SVT) are not uncommon presentations to Emergency Departments. It’s worth remembering that infants won’t present complaining of palpitations and may just be brought in by parents with poor feeding, irritability or just not being ‘right’. There is a really nice blog post about SVT  from Paediatric EM Morsels but I want to focus on one form of treatment – ice-water. I have yet not to have a child present who I have been unable to revert by this technique (It will happen I am sure…).

The key mistakes people make are:

1) Not holding properly. Young infants must be completely swaddled and have their face held in the water. This looks dreadful – so a lot of pre-warning to the parents is necessary.

2) They don’t complete immerse the face. It is not a slight ‘dab’ – the whole face must be immersed

3) They panic at 3 seconds.

In my experience you need a good 5s (sometimes slightly longer). This feels like a very long time (and is worse than the swaddled hold!) so you must brief parents (and other staff!) extensively about it.  Another approach is to basically hold longer than comfortable, and then hold a bit a more, if you don’t feel like counting in your head.

My ice-bucket challenge was to demonstrate what 5s feels like. Believe me if you can revert this way it is A LOT better than adenosine….

(Would have been better if I had thought through in advance what I was going to say but the light was running out fast…!)

[I have donated to the MND association]

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