Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If your doctor thinks you have heart palpitations, he or she will listen to your heart using a stethoscope. Your doctor may also look for signs of medical conditions that can cause heart palpitations, such as a swollen thyroid gland.

Other tests your doctor may perform include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). In this noninvasive test, a technician will place probes on your chest that record the electrical impulses that make your heart beat.

  • An ECG can help your doctor detect irregularities in your heart's rhythm and structure that could cause palpitations. The test may be performed while you rest or exercise (stress electrocardiogram).

  • Holter monitoring. A Holter monitor is a portable device that you wear to record a continuous ECG, usually for 24 to 72 hours. Holter monitoring is used to detect heart palpitations that aren't found during a regular ECG exam.
  • Event recording. If you don't have irregular heart rhythms while you wear a Holter monitor, your doctor may recommend an event recorder.

    You wear an event recorder as much as possible throughout the day, and push a button on a recording device you wear on your belt to record your heartbeat when you have symptoms. You may need to wear an event monitor for several weeks.

  • Echocardiogram. This noninvasive exam, which includes an ultrasound of your chest, shows detailed images of your heart's structure and function.

    Ultrasound waves are transmitted, and their echoes are recorded with a device called a transducer that's held outside your body. A computer uses the information from the transducer to create moving images on a video monitor.

Apr. 02, 2014