Heart palpitations occur when the patient senses their heart is racing or beating in an irregular rhythm. Some individuals describe the sensation as a 'flip flop' in the chest, and it can be both uncomfortable and frightening. While heart palpitations are normally harmless, they may be an indication of atrial fibrillation or another underlying heart condition. Patients with heart palpitations should have a physical examination and other tests to determine the underlying cause.
The doctor will ask the patient whether the palpitations occur at rest or during activity, and they will also want to know if they begin or end abruptly. Letting the doctor know about any skipped beats or fluttering may help with the diagnosis. Patients who have already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation should alert their cardiologist if they experience new palpitations. The cardiologist may want to review the patient's medications and make adjustments or additions to improve symptom management.