Vagal maneuvers for a fast heart rate

Vagal maneuvers are used to try to slow an episode of fast heart rate. These simple maneuvers stimulate the vagus nerve, sometimes resulting in slowed conduction of electrical impulses through the atrioventricular (AV) node of the heart. Be sure to talk to your health professional before trying these.

Vagal maneuvers that you can try to slow your fast heart rate include:

  • Gagging.
  • Holding your breath and bearing down (Valsalva maneuver).
  • Immersing your face in ice-cold water (diving reflex).
  • Coughing.
  • Putting pressure on your eyelids.

It is important to have your health professional show you how to do these procedures correctly.

In addition to these, your health professional may sometimes try another vagal maneuver (called carotid sinus massage) in the emergency room to help slow your heart rate. This technique should only be performed by a health professional.

Last Updated: September 17, 2008

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