5991448 tn?1378208933

Can I fly with WPW syndrome?

first of all sorry for my English - I'm from Poland. :) The polish Internet forums I can't find any information...

I am 27 years old and I have found to WPW syndrome. All the time I take drugs: propafenoum 150 mg x3. I get a supraventricular tachycardia about once a year - End at the time and stop on its own. I don't have any other diseases.

I scheduled a flight to Turkey (from Poland flight takes 3 hours). Do people with WPW categorically can't fly a plane? I'm getting conflicting information and I'm very scared. : ( Is a small amount of oxygen can lead to hypoxemia? Could this cause supraventricular tachycardia? Or atrial fibrillation with a small amount of oxygen? (I never had atrial fibrillation, but I know that with WPW syndrome this is dangerous).

has anyone traveled with WPW syndrome?

Should I cancel trip? Doctors give conflicting information ...

I will be grateful for your help.... greetings! :)
20 Responses
612551 tn?1450022175
I think you are okay on such a flight... a commercial fight with pressurized cabin, right?

I have flown a lot and I suffer from Atrial Fibrillation.  I have over one million miles flown on United Airlines, and lots of miles on other airlines around the world.  I have never had any problems flying - in commercial flights with pressurized cabins, the only thing I have noticed is the change in altitude and have a couple of times over the last 50 years had plugged ear problems - which were cleard by a simple procedure in the doctor's office.
1423357 tn?1511085442
I had a condition very similar to WPW with episodes 3 to 5 times per month, and flew numerous times without any problem.  The walk to the gate was more likely to trigger en episode than the flight itself.  You'll be fine!
5991448 tn?1378208933
Thank you, thank you for your response! It's very important to me. :)

And yes, a commercial fight with pressurized cabin.

I really want to go, but I had read so many strange things ...
I read that conditions pressurized cabin not have much effect on the heart. Elsewhere, wrote that as a result of less oxygen, heart rate increases and creates a rhythm disturbance. Maybe then I can get the SVT?

The guidelines also give different information. One wrote that "well-controlled supraventricular arrhytmias - unrestricted", in the second case: "Cardiovasculat Contraindications to commercial airline flight: Uncontrolled ventricular or supraventricular tachycardia" :(

In many places, also write that uncontrolled cardiac arrhythmia is a contraindication to fly. What is 'uncontrolled'? Is my arrhythmia is uncontrolled? I take medication, but supraventricular tachycardia can get out of control. I am very worried, but your answers comforted me. Thank you very much! :)

And once again apologize for my English - I understand what I read, worse with writing... ;)
612551 tn?1450022175
Your English if fine : )  As a world traveler I was lucky to speak as my "mother tongue" a language that is widely spoken, English.  I'll admit many who speak it as a second or third language do better than me.  I am always impressed when one can speak/write my only language, otherwise we'd not have much exchange

Commercial aircraft flying at 30,000 feet and above (10,000 meters) pressurize the cabin at about 10,000 feet, so the oxygen content is significantly lower than at sea level.  Other than my ears, adjusting for pressure only, I have never noticed the change from sea level to cabins pressurized to 10,000 feet.

Be positive mentally, I think that is your biggest issue, not the flying itself.  Worry produces adrenaline which elevates the heart rate.  
5991448 tn?1378208933
Thank you very much, Jerry :) It's true, I'm very nervous. If I decide to fly, I'll have to take a Xanax...

I have written on several forums ... Still I didn't find people with WPW syndrome, which fly. That's what worries me. :( Doctors rather say not to fly... I don't know what to do...
612551 tn?1450022175
I have seen posts over the last few years on the subject WPW, but it may be that no one suffering from that problem has been reading here.

I haven't looked back, but I think you decision time is coming up, the flight was to take place soon.

If you have a few more days you may be able to make contact with a WPW person by sending a private message/question.  Flying is so common that I think it likely that a person with WPW in the USA has either been on a flight or has decided not to fly.

Step one do a search on WPW on this community/board and look at the latest ones without regard to your specific subject.  Then "click" on the name/handle of anyone posting (you can check their profile to see if there is any recent activity) and send them a private message which can give your current thred URL.  Sadly, many helpful resources find a solution to their problem and never come back here to "pitch in".  The email is via Medhelp, it is not a email directly to the target, thus they have to log in to see they have a message.
612551 tn?1450022175
I did a quick search and didn't find anyone to send a message to... but I tried only "flying with WPW" in my search string.

Are you scheduled/planning to have an ablation?  I believe that procedure is rather well defined for WPW, the pathway is known or easier to find.

I also did a small reading on WPW and now understand your concern about AFIb.  I suffer from AFib (nothing else has been found other than a mitral valve which was repaired) and my ventricle rate (resting) tops out at about 135 if I am untreated (beta blocker).  Even an old person, such as I, can survive 135, but of course when I start walking it goes up fast and at my age 135 is near my maximum safe rate.

Sorry if I ramble, I had hope of finding a definitive answer, but I didn't and my reading makes me cautious about giving advice on your concern.    
5991448 tn?1378208933
Great idea! Thank you once again, Jerry. :) I'll try to contact with someone... In our small Poland, flying isn't so common ;) Knowledge of the WPW syndrome is also small...

I found the posts of two people who have fly with WPW. But each case is different. Medical tests on pilots scare me most: there were ECG changes in conditions similar to the aircraft cabin. Anyway, pilots with WPW are strictly forbidden to fly. Honestly, I'm close to giving up ...

I'm sorry to whine. I'm a coward! But the lack of confidence and knowledge doesn't help me ...
5991448 tn?1378208933
Sorry, just now I read out Your second post... :)
I think of ablation ... but to be honest - so far afraid of this surgery. In Poland, the medicine probably is not so high ... I'm afraid of complications ...

I had never atrial fibrillation, but once a year I get an episode of SVT, the heart is beating about 220 beats per minute. Last year, I had three episodes in a month! Then the doctor increased my dose of beta blocker...

Thank you for your kindness and might want to help me. :) :)
5991448 tn?1378208933
No one answered ... I feel that I'm the only one in the world with WPW syndrome :( It's sad, but I don't trust our doctors, so I'm looking for information "in the world." I didn't find anywhere answer American doctor too...

Maybe people with WPW just didn't fly ... I have a few days to decide, unless I give up. :(
612551 tn?1450022175
I am surprised that there isn't at least some experience based information, better medical based.

There are resources in the USA, via the web, like Cleveland Clinic - you may find some help there, and for a general question the hospital may offer some advice.  I know one can buy some advice over the web from Cleveland Clinic (there must be others) and one can send them (paper or electronic) test information that have already been run.  

In the USA we as patients "own" medical tests results, thus we can request a doctor to give us, or other doctors, test results.  Not sure where this is going here given the ongoing nightmare Obama's "Affordable Health Care Act".

I assume Poland allows full access to the "Web" so anything I can find so can you.  But, I will browse for a few minutes to see if I can locate anything.
612551 tn?1450022175
Here's a link to a report from the American Heart Association - a credible organization on the subject of heart problems.


It is rather long and I didn't try to read past the first paragraph.

I also found something from 2009, to which I gave about the same input I gave your regarding an ablation, but I can't figure out how to copy the link address.  I'll try again.
612551 tn?1450022175
Here's the link I was struggling with:

It is back here on the Medhelp community, but I can't find it here, I found it using a web search engine - it is the one I gave similar advice on in 2009, sorry I haven't learned anything more in the following 4 years : (
5991448 tn?1378208933
Thank you very much! You are very helpful and friendly person :) I'm very glad that someone wants to help me and write to me, despite my broken English ;)

Everything I read and check. :) Thank you, thank you! :)

In this last link, the gentleman wrote that he flew many times with WPW syndrome! It gives me hope :) I won't give up until I find the information. This will be my first trip abroad in my life.... I don't want to disappoint the person, which fly with me and give up... But also I don't want to trouble anyone on the plane ... My parents also are concerned about. I'm an only child and still their little girl :) That's why I'm so desperate.

If I'm ever rich, I will diablation in the USA ... if I would be able to fly by plane :)
5991448 tn?1378208933
I readed "The Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome as an Aviation Risk" from Jerry and conclusion is:

"Three patients were made mildly hypoxic in
the low pressure chamber. After approximately  5 minutes at a simulated altitude of 18,000 feet without oxygen, ST-segment depression
appeared on their electrocardiograms but promptly returned to normal after they breathed 100 per cent oxygen. One patient's tracing showed intermittent WV-P-W beats while he was in the low pressure chamber,
and there was no ST-segment depression in the normal complexes of the same tracing. We were unable to precipitate an episode of paroxysmal tachycardia in any of the patients studied".

...but it was patient with asymptomatic WPW. The result that less oxygen is important for patients with WPW. And my WPW is symptomatic, so maybe better to give up flying ...
Avatar universal
Hi, sorry but I am a wpw patient with the same situation than you and I do fly. I live in NYC but I was born in Mexico so we go by airplane once a year from NYC to Cancun about 8 hr flight (1 stop) and sometimes I fly from NYC to KY about same time (2 stops) in airplane, I just went last august 2013. I never had medication before and I never knew I could not fly or that there are restrictions for us as wpw syndrome patients. As of yesterday September 26 I started with Metoprolol 50 mg because I had a very bad episode on Tuesday Sept 24, I was considering catheter ablation but after talking with the cardio surgeon, I am giving a try to the medicine...so we will see. Hope you still can fly and enjoy life because it is so wonderful. Take care ;)

1423357 tn?1511085442
I had a type of SVT very similar to WPW.  Both are in the AVRT family.  Mine was corrected with catheter ablation after 54 years of episodes.  Prior to that, I was on various dosages of Metoprolol form 50mg. to as high as 200mg. per day. For me as well as others, it did little to prevent the episodes.  I'm not trying to discourage you from trying drug therapy.  But it seems that for most forum members, it doesn't help very much.

Many of us on here have had electrophysiology studies and ablations performed, and can help you with any questions you may have should you be interested in it later on.
Avatar universal
Thank you for your input and own experience. I been doing research about catheter ablation and so far with many it did not work and wpw returned some others after ep they find out ablation could not be perform because of the location of the extra pathway in the heart, as the doctors told them: the risks outweight the benefits. So far the metoprolol is helping me, I am not short of breath when I talk or walk 2 blocks but I am taking 25mg a day, with 50mg a day I got very weak yesterday and my doctor mentioned me if I get tired (side effect) I should reduce it since I am just starting, today 2nd day ;)
Avatar universal
hi, my friend suffers from wpw and says he keeps on getting his operation presponed is this normal? Has anyone been told that they can't fly because he has an 18 hour flight coming up soon and getting rather anxious.
Avatar universal
I had never been told not to fly, I flu from Cancun-Germany-Holland-Cancun and no problem at all. I do fly at least twice a year to Cancun since I live now in NYC. I do not know about anybody with their procedure (operations) been postponed. I myself choose not to undergo the procedure because of the risks involve. I hope your friend can get his/her procedure (operation) and be successful.
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