Electrocardiogram (ECG)

The first investigation worth carrying out is a simple heart tracing. This takes only a few minutes and is completely harmless and painless. If you are having the palpitations at the time of the recording then the doctor should be able to tell you there and then what the disturbance in your heart rhythm is.

This is clearly the easiest way to make the diagnosis in a patient who has sustained atrial fibrillation or any palpitations that are occurring at the time of the ECG recording.

ECG's in Sinus rhythm, SVT and AF

Sinus rhythm

A normal heart tracing in sinus rhythm


An ECG showing Atrial Fibrillation

Diagnosing intermittent symptoms

What if you suffer from intermittent symptoms?

There are a number of ways to record the heart rhythm during intermittent symptoms and the best method depends on how frequently you experience them and how long on average they persist for.

If when you get the symptoms they go on for a day or more then it might be best to arrange with your local hospital or GP surgery to be able to attend and get a high quality ECG recorded during the symptoms. For shorter lasting symptoms, where it may not be possible to attend before they have passed off, then alternatives exist.