Palpitations

Palpitations

What are palpitations?

Palpitations are an awareness of the heartbeat, sometimes an irregular heart beat or periods of a rapid heartbeat. They may have accompanying symptoms such as feeling unwell, chest pain or breathlessness.

What causes palpitations?

There are many causes of palpitations. Very often, they relate to extra heart beats called ectopic beats. Patients will describe a sensation of an extra heart beat then a pause and then a much stronger heartbeat. This is typical of ectopy and is generally not a cause for concern. Sometimes patients notice an irregular or fast heart beat which may reflect another type of heart rhythm disturbance, such as atrial fibrillation or supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

How are palpitations assessed?

This depends on the context. The patients who are otherwise well, then an outpatient consultation may be appropriate. This will include an ECG, which may capture the cause of the palpitations. If the palpitations are intermittent then an ambulatory monitor (an ECG that you can wear for a week or two) may be arranged. If it is very difficult to capture the arrhythmia and we are concerned that it may be serious then we may arrange for you to have an implanted monitor called a loop recorder.

* If you have palpitations and feel unwell, particularly if this includes having chest pain, blackouts or loss of consciousness, and these generally require urgent assessment in your local emergency department.

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    Dr Dawkins has private clinics in Oxford at the Nuffield Manor Hospital and in London at London Bridge Hospital. Please get in touch if you would like to make an appointment. We can usually arrange to see you within a few days. For urgent appointments, a same-day visit or telephone consultation can often be arranged. To arrange an appointment, please complete this form or call us on 020 7205 2024 (London) or 01865 598040 (Oxford).