Question: How does an EKG (electrocardiogram) help in finding out why I have palpitations?
Answer :Well, an EKG is really the first test we look for in patients with symptoms of palpitations.
Palpitations mean different things to different patients. You may mean a quickening of the heart rate; you may mean an increased forcefulness of heart contraction. An irregularity to the rhythm is also common when people complain of palpitations, and a rapid or racing heart rhythm is what many patients mean when they say they have palpitations. So an EKG is very helpful at determining what the heart rhythm is at the time.
So if one is having symptoms of having palpitations actively, at that moment, an EKG will pretty much give us the answer. Sometimes we'll find normal rhythm, in which case we can reassure the patient or move on to other items to investigate, or we may find atrial fibrillation, an irregular rhythm; we may find premature atrial contractions or ventricular contractions – PVCs. We may find a very abnormal rhythm, like ventricular tachycardia, if the patient's having the symptoms at the moment.
If, on the other hand, one had palpitations 10 minutes ago, 10 days ago, the EKG may show what heart condition is likely to have caused those arrhythmias, but further investigation may be necessary in that situation.