Palpitations are usually felt as an unusual pattern of heart beating, such as heart skipping, thumping or hard beats. This sensation can be very mild or quite uncomfortable. Often, it is not a harmful condition. Usually the only treatment necessary is reassurance from our doctors or in some cases, medical therapy to relieve symptoms. Learn more about our treatments for arrhythmias. In other cases, palpitations may signal the presence of a heart problem in need of treatment. The best approach to this condition is a thorough evaluation by an experienced cardiologist, who has expertise in evaluating and treating palpitations. Meet our electrophysiologists.
What causes palpitations?Palpitations can be caused by any sustained cardiac arrhythmia, but they can also be caused by normal heart rhythm or extra heart beats that are not necessarily abnormal. Examples of causes of palpitations include:
- Premature atrial complexes (PACs)
- Premature ventricular complexes (PVCs)
- Atrial fibrillation
- Atrial flutter
- Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)
- Ventricular tachycardia
Palpitations symptomsSymptoms include:
- Feeling that the heart is running or skipping
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dizzy spells
- Fainting spells
Palpitations diagnosisYour doctor will want to investigate why you are having palpitations. Some diagnostic tests used to determine the cause include:
- Blood tests. Your doctor will examine your chemistry levels, blood counts and thyroid functions, as well as ensure that you are not dehydrated.
- Electrocardiogram. An ECG or EKG records the electrical activity of the heart and shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias). Learn more about EKGs.
Palpitations treatmentIf your palpitations are caused by abnormal heart rhythms, your doctor may recommend the following strategies:
- Heart monitoring or electrophysiology study to identify the cause of the palpitations
- Medications to control the palpitations
- Lifestyle modifications to control stress
- Catheter ablation, if necessary, to eliminate the source of the abnormal electrical rhythm