Chapter 34: Palpitations
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Palpitations represent an intermittent or sustained awareness of the heartbeat, often described by the pt as a thumping, pounding, or fluttering sensation in the chest. The symptom may reflect a cardiac etiology, an extracardiac cause (e.g., hyperthyroidism, use of stimulants [e.g., caffeine, cocaine]), or a high catecholamine state (e.g., exercise, anxiety, pheochromocytoma). Contributory cardiac dysrhythmias include atrial or ventricular premature beats or, when sustained and regular, supraventricular or ventricular tachyarrhythmias (Chap. 125: Tachyarrhythmias). Irregular sustained palpitations are often due to atrial fibrillation. Asking the pt to “tap out” the sense of palpitation can help distinguish regular from irregular rhythms.