Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
If your doctor thinks you have heart palpitations, he or she will first listen to your heart using a stethoscope to see if your heart's beating irregularly or too quickly. Your doctor may also look for signs of medical conditions that can cause heart palpitations, such as a swollen thyroid gland.
Other tests your doctor may perform include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG). In this noninvasive test, a technician will place probes on your chest that record the electrical impulses that make your heart beat. An ECG records these electrical signals and can help your doctor detect irregularities in your heart's rhythm and structure that could cause palpitations. You may have an ECG while you're at rest or while exercising (stress electrocardiogram).
- Holter monitoring. A Holter monitor is a portable device that you wear to record a continuous ECG, usually for 24 to 72 hours. Holter monitoring is used to detect heart palpitations that aren't found during a regular ECG exam.
- Event recording. If you don't have any irregular heart rhythms while you wear a Holter monitor, your doctor may then recommend an event recorder. You wear an event monitor as much as possible throughout the day, and push a button on a recording device you wear on your belt to record your heartbeat when you experience symptoms. You may need to wear an event monitor for several weeks.
- Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray may be done to look at the size and shape of your heart to help determine if your heart structure is abnormal, which may cause palpitations.
- Echocardiogram. This noninvasive exam, which includes an ultrasound of your chest, shows detailed images of your heart's structure and function. Ultrasound waves are transmitted, and their echoes are recorded with a device called a transducer that's held outside your body. A computer uses the information from the transducer to create moving images on a video monitor.
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