Abnormal Heart Rhythms - Diagnosis

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How are heart rhythm disorders diagnosed?

The mainstay of diagnosis remains the EKG and heart rhythm monitoring. These are often done immediately in the ambulance or upon arrival in the emergency department. In many patients, the palpitations or symptoms may have resolved, and no acute rhythm abnormalities can be found.

Depending on the associated symptoms and the history, observation and monitoring of the heart may occur in hospital or as an outpatient. In patients who have passed out, admission to the hospital often occurs. Those patients with chest pain and shortness of breath may also be admitted to evaluate their heart. In patients who are not admitted, a heart monitoring device may be placed to monitor the rhythm for a duration of time. Monitors may be worn for 24 hours or up to 1 month. In some instances, rhythm identification is elusive and may take months or years to capture and identify. Implantable cardiac monitors may be placed for periods greater than 1 year.

If the rhythm is known, then tests to identify potential causes may be done. These are dependent on the specific rhythm abnormality and can range from blood tests to lung evaluations and sleep studies to echocardiograms and electrophysiologic testing.

Return to Abnormal Heart Rhythms (Heart Rhythm Disorders)

See what others are saying

Comment from: WarrantCWO, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: January 23

I've had intermittent irregular heartbeats and racing heartbeats for many years. I've mentioned it to doctors at various times, and a couple of times an EKG was ordered. Of course, because it's intermittent my EKGs were always normal. This month (Jan 2014) I happened to be in the doctor's office for something else when I "oh by the way" mentioned it was happening again. My doctor checked with a stethoscope and voila, there it was. He ordered an in-office EKG, and finally after many years it was documented. He prescribed metoprolol 25mg to be taken when symptoms start. I took one for the first time last night, and it seemed to calm down my heart.

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Comment from: Benard, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: February 19

My heart rhythm disorder was diagnosed initially by my personal physician during my routine health checkup. It was discovered during a stress test. I was scheduled to see a specialist who conducted an echo, Holter, and another stress test. The results of these test led to a heart catheterization to find out if there is a block in the heart and apply stents if necessary to hopefully correct the abnormal heart beat.

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