‘Palpitations’ include a broad range of symptoms relating to the perception of abnormal activity of the heart. They may reflect an underlying arrhythmia or a hyperawareness of normal cardiac activity caused by stress or anxiety. The challenge to a clinician assessing patients with palpitations is to assess the likely cause of symptoms, to stratify the individual patient risk and to choose the correct management strategy delivered with appropriate urgency. The young military population, subject to increased exposure to environmental stress, is at an increased risk of palpitations. Due to the distracting nature of this symptom and the frequently sudden and unheralded onset, a common consequence is medical downgrading. This article will provide a guide to assessing the heterogeneous group presenting with palpitations and how to both establish the cause and identify the correct treatment for each patient in a timely manner.
- Occupational cardiology