A professor at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q) has had his work into heart palpitations published by one of the world’s most respected and prestigious medical journals.
Dr. Charbel Abi Khalil, assistant professor of medicine and genetic medicine at WCM-Q, and consultant cardiologist at the Heart Hospital – Hamad Medical Corporation, wrote a paper entitled ‘Investigating palpitations, the role of Holter monitoring and loop recorders.’ The work has now been published by the British Medical Journal.
Heart palpitations make an individual feel that their heart is racing, missing a beat, or has an irregular rhythm, and although they usually have a benign cause, like stress, they can be indicative of a more serious, underlying heart condition. Holter monitoring involves having a battery-operated monitor attached to a patient’s clothing which monitors electrocardiogram (ECG) readings through electrodes attached to the skin. The Holter monitor can be worn for as little as 24 hours or up to two weeks to gain a fuller picture. Loop recorders operate in a similar manner, but are implanted beneath the skin, detecting the heart’s electrical activity over time in order to diagnose an irregular pulse.
Dr. Abi Khalil has now written about the best approach for doctors faced with a patient who suffers from palpitations, detailing the steps they should take in order to make the most accurate diagnosis and prognosis.
Firstly, Dr. Abi Khalil states that physicians must consider the history and lifestyle of the individual. For example, symptoms that also include dizziness and blacking out might suggest a serious form of arrhythmia, which is caused by disorganized electrical activity in the ventricles. Alternatively, palpitations that are preceded by exercise or the consumption of caffeine may suggest a less worrying condition. A cardiovascular examination may also reveal heart disease so the palpitations could be a sign of congestive heart failure or valvular heart disease.
As well as issues with the heart, palpitations can also be caused by metabolic disorders like hyperthyroidism, induced by certain medications, or even be symptoms of a psychiatric problem like panic attacks or depression.
The first medical investigation that should be performed is to get a full blood count, thyroid and kidney function test, and measurements of blood sugars and electrolytes, as Dr. Abi Khalil said these give an indication of common metabolic disorders that could be causing the irregular heartbeats.
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