When do heart palpitations require evaluation by a cardiologist?
Palpitations can be caused by a long list of diverse factors, including arrhythmia. Anyone who experiences palpitations along with any of the following symptoms should be evaluated by a cardiologist. These include:
What is an arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia is an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. An irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of arrhythmia. When a person suffers from AF, cardiac signals are erratic, which will lead to the decline in cardiac pump efficiency and thereby, increase the formation of blood clots and cause a stroke, or cause the heart to overwork, which can lead to heart failure.
How can a cardiologist determine if my palpitations are due to an arrhythmia?
At Chinatown Cardiologist your cardiologist will begin by taking a complete medical history and conducting a physical examination. In addition, testing may be ordered, which could include:
- An electrocardiogram (EKG). This is a quick and easy non-invasive procedure that uses electrodes placed on the chest, arms, and legs to interpret electrical activity of the heart. Each heartbeat is accompanied by an electrical signal that spreads from the top of the heart to the bottom. As the signal travels, it causes the heart to contract and pump blood. EKG recordings give the doctor information about how your heart is working; including its heart rate, regularity of heartbeats, size and position of the chambers, and the presence of any damage to the heart. It can also be used to evaluate the effects of drugs or devices used to regulate your heart.
- Holter monitor (ambulatory electrocardiography device). This is a portable device for continuous monitoring of electrical activity of the cardiovascular system over a period of 12 or 48 hours. The extended recording is useful for observing occasional cardiac arrhythmias that are difficult to identify on an electrocardiogram or for recording certain abnormalities that only occur during certain activities like sleeping or physical activities.
- An echocardiogram. This is a simple diagnostic procedure that uses sound waves (echoes) to produce images of your heart, including its size and shape, pumping capacity, location, and extent of any tissue damage.
- Stress tests. A stress test measures how your heart performs under different levels of stress. Making your heart work harder makes it easier for your doctor to diagnose problems. At Chinatown Cardiology, heart stimulation is either provided by exercising on a treadmill or injection of intravenous vasodilators.The latter is used when medical problems prevent a person from being able to complete the necessary exercise; this is called a pharmacologic stress test.