Palpitations

Palpitations Q & A

by: Ameeta Walia, DO, FACC, FASE

What Are Heart Palpitations?

Heart palpitation is the feeling that a person gets when their heart is acting irregularly. It is often described as the feeling that the heart either skips a beat or beats too frequently. Some people who have palpitations have the sensation of heart trembling, racing, or pounding. The feeling is primarily in the heart, but palpitations may be experienced in other areas like the neck and throat.

Are Palpitations the Same Thing as Arrhythmias?

No, palpitations are not the same thing as arrhythmias. A palpitation is a sensation of irregular heartbeat. An arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heart, and it is sometimes the cause of the palpitations. However, palpitations may also be caused by a variety of other things including extreme emotions, strenuous exercise, ingestion of caffeine, blood loss, and medications like asthma inhalers.

How Are Palpitations Tested?

There are several different tests that can record the electrical impulses that create the heartbeat. An EKG test looks for abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart that could explain the palpitations. An EKG measures the electrical impulses for only seconds, so it may not detect the cause of the palpitations. Holter monitors are portable devices that allow for longer term recording of the heart rhythm. The Holter monitor is essentially a continuous EKG, one that lasts for 1 to 3 days in total. If the Holter monitor testing does not detect any heart palpitations, an event recorder may be the next option recommended by the doctor. An event recorder is quite similar to a Holster monitor, but it doesn’t record the heartbeat continually. It is activated only when the patient is having symptoms, either manually or automatically. Event monitors are often worn for longer than Holter monitors, often for 2 to 3 weeks. An Echocardiogram, which is a non-invasive exam that includes a detailed ultrasound of the heart, may also be done when a patient experiences palpitations.

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