Palpitation treatment and care at Melbourne Heart Care
Melbourne Heart Care provides comprehensive information and expert care for cardiac arrhythmias. Our professional and friendly team are committed to providing compassionate and holistic care, with personalised treatment options for your palpitations.
What are palpitations?
A palpitation refers to that sensation you may have of a slow, fast, pounding or irregular heartbeat. It can feel like fluttering, rapid beats or even a skipped beat. While often harmless, they can also indicate an underlying issue with the heart’s electrical activity that needs attention. If they are bothering you, or causing other symptoms you should have them investigated.
Palpitations can be normal, however, if accompanied by other symptoms can be heart arrhythmias that indicate an underlying issue with the electrical system in your heart.
What are the different types of abnormal heart rhythms?
There are many different types of irregular rhythms, otherwise known as heart arrhythmias. These occur when you feel irregular, fast or slow heartbeats and may indicate an issue with the conduction system in your heart. The different types of abnormal heart rhythms are:
- Sinus Tachycardia
- Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)
- Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
- Atrial Flutter
- Atrioventricular heart block
- Bradycardia (slow)
- Ventricular Tachycardia (VT)
- Ventricular Fibrillation (VF)
- Premature Atrial Contractions (PAC)
- Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC)
What causes an irregular heart rhythm?
The heart’s electrical system starts in the natural pacemaker or sinus node in the upper right chamber (right atrium). An electrical signal moves through the heart’s upper chambers and reaches the atrioventricular node (AV node) between the atria and bottom chambers (ventricles).
The electrical impulses then travel through conduction fibres in the ventricles, causing the heart muscle to contract and pump blood in a normal heart rhythm. Palpitations are caused when something disrupts the heart’s electrical pathways, the electrical impulses that stimulate the muscle to contract. There are many different causes for these abnormal electrical signals:
- Coronary Heart disease
- Congenital heart disease
- Sick Sinus Syndrome
- Heart failure
- Structural abnormalities in your heart, such as cardiomyopathy, valve disease or scarring
- Electrolyte imbalances
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
- Thyroid disease
Identifying the underlying cause of the irregular heartbeats is crucial to determine the most effective treatment.
What are the risk factors for abnormal heart rhythms?
There are several risk factors for cardiac arrhythmias:
- Obesity/being overweight
- Excessive alcohol or caffeine
- Previous heart attack
- Drug abuse
- Anxiety or stress
- Some medications or supplements
Signs and symptoms of cardiac arrhythmias
Whilst the occasional palpitation can be normal, especially during times of heightened emotional or physical stress, if you also experience any of the following arrhythmia symptoms you should talk to your doctor:
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy
- Syncope (fainting)
- Feeling like your heart is pounding or fluttering in your chest
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
You may also be able to feel a slow or fast heartbeat through the pulses in your wrist or throat.
Palpitations can sometimes be felt as a slow or fast heartbeat in your wrist and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, feeling faint or light-headed, pain in your chest or anxiety.
What are the complications of an irregular heartbeat?
There are some risks and complications associated with certain abnormal heart rhythms. These include blood clots, stroke, heart failure, cardiac arrest or sudden death.
How are irregular heart rhythms diagnosed?
Your cardiologist can order several diagnostic tests for palpitations:
A holter monitor can be used to assess your heart rhythm over a 24-hour period and determine what is causing your symptoms. If symptoms aren’t experienced during this short period, an event monitor can be used for 1-2 weeks. Additionally, there’s a minimally invasive implantable loop recorder that can be placed under the skin on your chest, below the clavicle.
This tiny divide continuously monitors your heart rate and rhythm, automatically records any abnormalities and also allows you to initiate recordings when you experience symptoms. Other diagnostic tests can determine the cause of your palpitations. These include:
What is the treatment for palpitations?
Palpitation treatment options will depend on the causes and how it is impacting your health and lifestyle.
Medication management is aimed at stabilising your heart arrhythmia, preventing complications and treating the conditions that may be causing the abnormal heart rhythm.
Interventions and surgery for heart arrhythmia treatment include:
- Electrical cardioversion – where an electrical current is used to shock your heart out of an abnormal rhythm
- Catheter ablation – where a catheter is inserted and uses radiofrequency energy to deactivate the area where abnormal electrical impulses are coming from. This is mostly used to correct atrial fibrillation
- Pacemaker insertion – where a small device is implanted that stimulates the heart’s electrical system to maintain a regular rhythm
- An implantable cardiac defibrillator – can monitor your heart’s rhythm and can pace your heart or provide a small electrical shock when it detects life-threatening heart rhythms
If you are at risk of, or have been diagnosed with heart arrhythmias there are some lifestyle changes you can make to manage your condition:
- Quit smoking
- Decrease caffeine or alcohol intake
- Avoid drug abuse
- Stay active and maintain a healthy weight
- Manage high blood pressure and cholesterol with a balanced diet and prescribed medications
Living with an abnormal heart rhythm
Living with an irregular heartbeat requires ongoing management. With regular monitoring, identifying your triggers, following the treatment plan and maintaining a healthy lifestyle you can live a full and happy life.
The Melbourne Heart Care team are experts in cardiac arrhythmias
At Melbourne Heart Care, our specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating cardiac arrhythmias. With a patient-centred approach and cutting-edge technology, we are dedicated to providing tailored solutions for your heart’s health.
If you’re experiencing palpitations or irregular heart rhythms, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our skilled team is here to guide you towards a healthier heart.
- Phone: 03 9592 2177
- Fax: 03 9592 3177
- Postal Address: Suite 16, 3 Male Street, Brighton 3186
Where to find usWe provide consultations and a comprehensive range of tests and treatments at our modern facilities, private hospitals or a public hospital near you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to commonly asked questions about holters and cardiac monitoring.
Occasional palpitations are common and may not be a cause of concern. It’s normal to feel your heart beating during physical activity or when you’re paying close attention. However, if they are persistent or are accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, pain in your chest, dizzy spells or fainting, then you should see your doctor.
You should be concerned about palpitations if they are frequent, severe, accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, or if you have a history of heart disease. You should also worry when they stop you from exercising or being able to complete your daily activities.
If your palpitations are limiting you from going about your daily life, are severe or associated with any other symptoms like problems with your breathing, pain in your chest, dizziness or fainting you need to see your doctor.
Once you identify the triggers and cause of your palpitations, there may be several things you can do to stop them. This may include relaxation techniques, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, staying hydrated, taking prescribed medications for your heart, healthy lifestyle such as exercising and eating well and controlling your risk factors.
Palpitations can last for a few seconds, to several minutes or even longer depending on the cause and individual factors. If they are lasting longer than 10 minutes you need to talk to your doctor and determine what is causing them and how to treat them.
Common types of abnormal heart rhythms include:
- Atrial fibrillation (fast and irregular heartbeats)
- Atrial flutter
- Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Fast heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Ventricular tachycardia
- Heart blocks