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What are palpitations?

Heart palpitations are heart beats that become suddenly noticeable. This could be due to the heart beat being missed, stronger sensation of heart beat, or fast heart beats that are out of proportion to the activity or emotional state.



What causes it?

Palpitations are a common symptom and may occur very infrequently. Anxiety or unaccustomed activity or exercise are common causes. Emotional stress or psychological issues could lead to persistent palpitations. Fever, anemia (low iron levels in the body) or diseases of certain glands (thyroid) could cause palpitations.



Why should you see a Paediatric Cardiologist?

Abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias can cause palpitations and can be distressing and on occasions, dangerous. It is important to rule out a cardiac reason for arrhythmia and Dr Khambadkone  can help with a good history and investigations. A small number of children and young adults have heart abnormalities that can be diagnosed with echocardiography. Heart muscle abnormalities (cardiomyopathy) can cause heart palpitations.


What tests will be performed?

After a thorough history and examination, ECG and echocardiography will be the first tests performed by Dr Khambadkone to look at electrical or structural abnormality of the heart or a heart muscle disease. To catch the episode of palpitations can be difficult if they occur randomly and infrequently. Heart rhythm monitoring for long periods (1 day, or occasionally 1 week) will then be performed. Rarely, an implantable monitor will be placed under the skin for long term monitoring under local or general anaesthetic. Exercise testing is important if palpitations are related to exercise. This will be arranged by Dr Khambadkone in a specialized centre.


How are palpitations treated?

If there is no serious underlying cause, children will be reassured as most palpitations last for a few seconds and pose no risk to health. Structural abnormalities (e.g. aortic stenosis) can cause excess burden to the heart resulting in cardiac arrhythmias and palpitations, and necessitate treatment. Electrical circuit abnormalities of the heart (ventricular ectopy, supraventricular tachycardia) often occur even with a normal heart structure. They will be treated with special group of medicines called antiarrhythmic medications. These can help control the palpitations. You may need a referral to a specialist who deals with electrical problems of the heart, Electrophysiologists, and Dr Khambadkone will arrange this. 

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