Palpitations and Arrhythmias

Cardiac rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) can range from being virtually entirely harmless to being life threatening.

Whilst some people have marked awareness of an arrhythmia, others may have little or no symptoms and no awareness that they have a cardiac rhythm disturbance. Some arrhythmias may arise in isolation in an otherwise normal heart whilst others may reflect a separate, significant underlying cardiac condition that may need treating in its own right.

Palpitations are an increased awareness of one's heart beat. These may occur in the context of a normal cardiac rhythm due to excitement or anxiety, they may occur as a symptom of extra beats arising from the heart (extra systoles), or they may be a symptom of a significant underlying arrhythmia.

Episodes of irregular heartbeats should not be ignored and it is important to seek early medical advice, particularly to detect common arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation so that protective treatment can be started. It is common clinical practice to undergo a period of cardiac monitoring to determine the cause of symptomatic palpitations, this may be a simple ECG or more prolonged monitoring with a 24 hour tape or R-test.

Dr Hickman sees private and NHS patients referred by their general practitioners and a referral letter is usually required. In exceptional circumstances, due to the urgent and unpredictable nature of cardiac complaints, Dr Hickman will offer urgent appointments to private patients without a referral letter. A full report will subsequently be sent to their GP.

ECG showing pre-excited tachycardia.