Heart palpitations are the feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering
or pounding heart. Stress, exercise, medication or, rarely, a medical condition can
Although heart palpitations can be worrisome, they're usually harmless. In rare
they can be a symptom of a more serious heart condition, such as an irregular
(arrhythmia), that might require treatment.
Heart palpitations can feel like your heart is:
Beating too fast
You might feel heart palpitations in your throat or neck, as
well as your chest. They can
occur when you're active or at rest.
When to see a doctor
Palpitations that are infrequent and last only a few seconds usually don't need to be
evaluated. If you have a history of heart disease and have palpitations that occur
frequently or worsen, the consult your doctor immediately.
Seek emergency medical attention if heart palpitations are accompanied by:
Chest discomfort or pain
Severe shortness of breath
Occasionally heart palpitations can be a sign of a serious problem, such as an
thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
might cause a very fast heart rate (tachycardia), an unusually slow heart rate
(bradycardia) or an irregular heart rhythm.
Unless a heart condition is causing your heart palpitations, there's little risk of
complications. For palpitations caused by a heart condition, possible complications
Fainting: If your heart beats rapidly, your blood pressure can drop, causing
faint. This might be more likely if you have a heart problem, such as congenital
disease or certain valve problems.
Cardiac arrest: Rarely, palpitations can be caused by life-threatening
and can cause your heart to stop beating effectively.
Stroke: If palpitations are due to a condition in which the upper chambers of
quiver instead of beating properly (atrial fibrillation), blood can pool and cause
form. If a clot breaks loose, it can block a brain artery, causing a stroke.
Heart failure: This can result if your heart is pumping ineffectively for a
period due to an arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation. Sometimes, controlling the
of an arrhythmia that's causing heart failure can improve your heart's function.
If your doctor suspects your palpitations are caused by an arrhythmia or other heart
condition, tests might include:
Electrocardiogram (ECG): In this noninvasive test, a technician places leads
chest that record the electrical impulses that make your heart beat.
An ECG can help your doctor detect irregularities in your heart's rhythm and
that could cause palpitations. The test will be performed either while you rest or
during exercise (stress electrocardiogram).
Holter monitoring: You wear this portable device to record a continuous ECG,
usually for 24 to 72 hours, while you keep a diary of when you feel palpitations.
monitoring is used to detect heart palpitations that aren't found during a regular
Event recording: If you don't have irregular heart rhythms while you wear a
monitor or if the events occur less than once weekly, your doctor might recommend
an event recorder.
Echocardiogram: This noninvasive exam, which includes an ultrasound of your
chest, shows detailed images of your heart's structure and function.Ultrasound waves
are transmitted, and their echoes are recorded with a device called
a transducer that's held outside your body. A computer uses the information from the
transducer to create moving images on a video monitor.