Below is an article written by James D. Gallagher, M.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center Cardiology Division
Yes, the weather is changing and getting cold. Some of you may be shoveling snow now. With increased activity, sometimes you may notice an increase in extra heart beats. Or, you may notice these extra heartbeats more after exertion.
Many people experience palpitations, racing heart beats, or irregular heartbeats at some point in their life. Some are not very bothersome and some are. Some are not very serious and some are. There are multiple causes for this, such as electrical rhythm problems called premature atrial contractions, premature ventricular contractions, atrial tachycardia, atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation and the list goes on. Ultimately, to determine what is causing palpitations, one needs to have an electrocardiogram done at the time of the palpitations.
An electrocardiogram, also called an ECG or EKG, is where wires are connected to patches on the body so an electrical signal from the heart can be recorded. This is painless. Often, if you are not having the palpitations when you see your medical provider, the ECG may look normal. Again, to determine the cause of the palpitations, an ECG at the time of the symptoms needs to be done. As such, a home cardiac monitor may be prescribed. This is a small box that one carries on their belt with several wires going from the box to patches on the chest. You can typically keep working while wearing the monitor. In fact, we usually want people to continue their normal activities including exercise or whatever brings out the palpitations while wearing the monitor.
Because many of you may be independently minded, if you desire to try to catch these palpitations with a device at home, there are companies such as AliveCor, which make cell phone cases you can purchase that have electrodes on them that can record the electrical signal of your heart during the event. The device then saves the recording and you can show them to your doctor.
The abnormal rhythm that we find then determines what treatment you may need, whether it is medications or a procedure such as an ablation or defibrillator.
Dr. Gallagher is an expert in management of pacemakers, defibrillators, and resynchronization devices. He specializes in treatment of patients with cardiac arrhythmias, including ablation of these arrhythmias.
For more information, please give him a call at (585) 276-3000.