Palpitations are a common presentation in general practice(1) and a frequent reason for cardiology referrals. This symptom often causes considerable distress and anxiety for the patient(2) and can evoke a similar feeling in the consulted healthcare professional. However, palpitations are often benign.(3) Less than half of patients with palpitations suffer from an arrhythmia and not every identified arrhythmia is of clinical or prognostic significance.(4 )There is also a high incidence of anxiety disorders among patients presenting with palpitations.(5)
The skill lies in identifying patients with a significant heart rhythm abnormality who can be either helped by treatment or are at risk of adverse outcome. This can be achieved in primary care by taking a careful history and simple investigations.(5)
The provision of services for patients with arrhythmic illness has lagged behind those who suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD). This has been recognised by the addition of Chapter 8 to the National Service Framework for CHD.(6) Timely access to appropriate clinicians and patient support are among the quality requirements, which have been much welcomed by patients.
For UK healthcare professionals only