What are palpitations?

Palpitations is a term used to describe the sensation of abnormal heart beats.  These abnormal sensations may include feelings of skipped beats or extra beats.  Extra beats may occur as single extra beats, clusters of extra beats, or long runs of extra beats.

What causes palpitations? Palpitations caused by extra beats may originate from the top chambers of the heart (right and left atrium) or the bottom chambers of the heart (right and left ventricles).  Examples of abnormal heart rhythms that may cause palpitations include the following:

♦ Premature Atrial Contractions (PACs) ♦ Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) ♦ Atrial FlutterAtrial Fibrillation ♦ Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) ♦ Ventricular Arrhythmias

Are palpitations dangerous?

            The sensation of extra beats itself is not dangerous.  However, palpitations can be caused by serious heart rhythm abnormalities such as ventricular arrhythmias.  Some abnormal heart rhythms can lead to more serious symptoms such as lightheadedness or fainting.  In some instances, abnormal heart rhythms such as ventricular arrhythmias can lead to sudden death.  For this reason, patients experiencing palpitations should undergo extensive evaluation by their cardiologist. 

How are palpitations evaluated?

Your cardiologist may order a variety of tests to evaluate your palpitations.  These tests may include the following:

Electrocardiogram (ECG) ♦ Holter MonitorLoop Monitor EchocardiogramStress TestElectrophysiology Study