Palpitations are feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.
The heart's rhythm may be normal or abnormal when you have palpitations.
Normally the heart beats 60 - 100 times per minute. In people who exercise routinely or take medications that slow the heart, the rate may drop below 55 beats per minute.
If your heart rate is fast (over 100 beats per minute), this is called tachycardia. A slow heart rate is called bradycardia. An occasional extra heartbeat is known as extrasystole.
Palpitations are usually not serious. However, it depends on whether or not the sensations represent an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
The following conditions make you more likely to have an abnormal heart rhythm:
Heart palpitations are most often not serious. They can be due to:
However, some palpitations are due to an abnormal heart rhythm, which may be caused by:
Once a serious cause has been ruled out by your doctor, try not to pay close attention to heart palpitations. This may cause stress. However, contact your doctor if you notice a sudden increase or a change in them.
If you have never had heart palpitations before, see your health care provider.
The following symptoms require immediate attention. Call 911 or your local emergency number:
Call your doctor right away if:
Your doctor or nurse will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms.
You may be asked:
An electrocardiogram will be done.
In the emergency room, you will be connected to a heart monitor.
If your doctor finds you have an abnormal heart rhythm, other tests may be done. This may include:
Heartbeat sensations; Irregular heartbeat; Palpitations; Heart pounding or racing
Goldman L. Approach to the patient with possible cardiovascular disease. In Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 48.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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