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Palpitations: Introduction

Palpitations are a sensation in the chest that is described in a number of ways. These include feeling a rapid heartbeat, a pounding in the chest, a fluttering of the heart, being conscious of the beating of the heart, or feeling missed or skipped beats of the heart.

Palpitations can be a symptom of a variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases or conditions. Palpitations can result from drugs use, infection, cardiac arrhythmia, myocardial infarction, trauma, and other abnormal processes.

Palpitations can occur in any age group or population. Palpitations are often associated with heart disease, but they can also occur with a wide variety of other diseases, disorders and conditions. For example, palpitations are commonly the result of the use of certain street drugs, such as methamphetamine and ecstasy.

Palpitations can also result from a relatively mild to moderate condition that is relatively easy to resolve, such as drinking too much coffee or an anxiety attack. Palpitations can also be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition, such as cardiac arrhythmia. Palpitations are commonly associated with a cardiac conditions, but any condition or disease that causes a rapid heart rate (tachycardia) can result in palpitations. These can include conditions of the respiratory system, the circulatory system, and the gastrointestinal system. For more details about causes, see causes of palpitations.

Depending on the cause, palpitations can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when palpitations occurs during an anxiety attack. Palpitations can also occur in sudden, severe episodes, such as palpitations that happens with a cardiac arrhythmia called supraventricular tachycardia. Palpitations can also be chronic and ongoing over a long period of time, such as when it is due to a cardiac arrhythmia called chronic atrial fibrillation.

Palpitations often occur in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other common symptoms include irregular pulse, chest pain, chest pressure, shortness of breath, cough, fever, abnormal vital signs, rapid breathing (tachypnea) and labored breathing (dyspnea). Dizziness, anxiety, restlessness and paranoia can also occur.

Complications of some underlying causes of palpitations can be life-threatening and include low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the body, sepsis, shock, life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest and death.

Diagnosing palpitations and their root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination.

Depending on the suspected cause of palpitations, blood tests may include a complete blood count, which can reveal in infectious process, and cardiac assays, which can reveal a cardiac condition. Blood and urine drug screens can determine if there are any drugs in the body that may be the cause of palpitations.

An EKG and chest X-ray are also performed if the cause of palpitations is suspected to be due to heart disease or a respiratory disease. Continuous cardiac monitoring is also done to watch for cardiac arrhythmias, which are a common cause of palpitations.

An exam also includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that the heart and lungs make. Certain types of heart sounds, such as a heart murmur, point to some underlying causes of palpitations, such as mitral valve prolapse. Certain lung sounds point to some underlying causes of palpitations. For example, a bubbling sound may point to congestive heart failure.

Other important tests include a noninvasive test called a pulse oximetry is generally performed. This involves clipping a painless device to the fingertip, which can measure the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Depending on the suspected cause of palpitations, other tests can include additional blood tests, culture and sensitivity tests, pulmonary function test, and imaging tests, such as CT scan, nuclear scans, and MRI.

A diagnosis of palpitations and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because palpitations may be mild or vague and for other reasons. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of palpitations.

Treatment of palpitations involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing them. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of palpitations. ...more »

Palpitations: The term "palpitations" loosely means any time a person can sense their own heartbeat, and believes it to be unusual or abnormal. Thus, palpitations may be used by patients to ... more about Palpitations.

Palpitations: "Extra" heartbeats, also called palpitations, or premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) happen when there is irritation in the ... more about Palpitations.

Palpitations: The subjective sensation of the beating of the heart at a rapid or irregular rate. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Palpitations is available below.

Palpitations: Treatments

Treatment plans for palpitations are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, eases the discomfort of palpitations, decreases the risk of developing serious complications, ...more treatments »

Palpitations: Misdiagnosis

Diagnosing palpitations and their underlying cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases, palpitations may not be severe enough or last long enough for a person to seek medical care. Palpitations can be a sign of a serious, even life-threatening condition and should be evaluated immediately. ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Palpitations

Treatments for Palpitations

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Palpitations:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Palpitations?

Palpitations: Related Patient Stories

Palpitations: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Palpitations.

Alternative Treatments for Palpitations

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Palpitations may include:

Palpitations: Complications

Read more about complications of Palpitations.

Causes of Palpitations

More information about causes of Palpitations:

Disease Topics Related To Palpitations

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Palpitations:

Palpitations: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Palpitations

Heart attacks can be undiagnosed: Although the most severe symptoms of heart attack are hard to miss, there are varying degrees of severity. It is altogether too common for people to die from undiagnosed heart attack, more »

Heart attacks can be overdiagnosed: Although many people die from heart attacks, there are also many cases where people fear that they have a heart attack, but actually have something milder. more »

Rare heart condition often undiagnosed: The rare heart condition called long QT syndrome can lead to episodes of palpitations and rapid heartbeat. In rare cases, this more »

Heart attack can be over-diagnosed: Although heart attack is often undiagnosed, leading to fatality, it can also be over-diagnosed. People become concerned that a condition is a heart attack, whereas there are various more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure. The "cuff" around the arm to measure blood pressure more »

Hypertension misdiagnosis common in children: Hypertension is often misdiagnosed in adults (see misdiagnosis of hypertension), but more »

Palpitations: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Palpitations

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Palpitations:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Palpitations, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Palpitations: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Palpitations

Palpitations: Animations

Palpitations: Broader Related Topics

Palpitations Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Palpitations, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Palpitations

"Extra" heartbeats, also called palpitations, or premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) happen when there is irritation in the lower part of the heartís pumping chambers. PVCs interrupt the normal heart rhythm and cause an irregular beat that can feel like a "missed beat" or a "flip-flop" in the chest. This can be harmless or it may lead to problems that are more serious. (Source: excerpt from HEART AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: NWHIC)

Definitions of Palpitations:

Palpitations; unpleasant sensation of irregular and/or forceful beating of the heart. - (Source - Diseases Database)

A rapid and irregular heart beat - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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