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  1. Chambers, Stephanie MSN, NNP-BC
  2. Jnah, Amy DNP, NNP-BC
  3. Newberry, Desi DNP, NNP-BC


Background: Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) is a congenital defect of the cardiac conduction system (CCS), with proliferation of extra embryologic conduction pathways and rapid conduction of electrical impulses. The estimated neonatal incidence of 0.1% to 0.2% may be misrepresented secondary to missed or misdiagnosis. Undiagnosed WPW can result in sudden cardiac death.


Purpose: To discuss the pathogenesis, manifestations, diagnosis, management, and lifespan implications of WPW in the prenatal and postnatal periods.


Methods/Search Strategy: A literature review was conducted using PubMed, CINAHL, and Google Scholar (2013-2019). Search terms included (newborn OR infant), wolff parkinson white, pathogenesis, management, and ventricular preexcitation. After removal of duplicates, 267 references were identified, abstracts reviewed, and 30 publications fully evaluated.


Findings/Results: Separation of the heart chambers begins around 7 weeks' gestation with formation of the annulus fibrosis complete after term. The unknown external environmental influence on the development of the preterm infant's CCS places neonates at risk for persistent atrioventricular reentrant tachycardia with WPW development. Ensuring an appropriate diagnosis is crucial, as an incorrect diagnosis could mean death.


Implications for Practice: Due to the rarity of WPW, any fetal or neonatal supraventricular tachycardia requires further evaluation with an electrocardiogram and involvement of an experienced cardiologist for diagnosis. One episode of supraventricular tachycardia warrants evaluation for WPW, as recurring episodes may result in irreversible damage.


Implications for Research: The recommendations for treatment of WPW in the prenatal and immediate postnatal periods are based heavily on standards of care for the adult population. A paucity of evidenced-based literature exists and future research is crucial to understand the true incidence, physiologic effects, and lifespan implications of WPW on neonates.