Characteristics of patients presenting to a cardiac clinic with palpitation
Authors: Sprigings D.; Birkhead J.; Mayou R.; Price J.
Source: QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, Volume 96, Number 2, February 2003 , pp. 115-123(9)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Background: Palpitation is a very common presenting symptom in primary care and in cardiac clinics, associated with marked disability. Although serious arrhythmias are uncommon causes, treatment of persistent palpitation is difficult.
Aim: To describe the cardiological, behavioural and psychological characteristics of consecutive patients presenting to a cardiac clinic with the main complaint of palpitation.
Design: Prospective evaluation of consecutive out-patients.
Methods: Participants were 184 consecutive patients with the complaint of palpitation referred to an out-patient cardiac clinic. Three assessments were used. Three to four weeks prior to clinic attendance, measures of symptoms, distress and disability were gathered, and a heart rate perception test was conducted. At the out-patient clinic, a routine clinical assessment was made. Three months later, patients received a questionnaire which included baseline measures of symptoms, distress and disability.
Results: Palpitation was associated with arrhythmias in 62 patients (34%), extrasystoles in 75 patients (41%) and awareness of sinus rhythm in 47 patients (26%). Distress and disability were common and persistent. There were significant differences in the characteristics of the three groups.
Discussion: Most patients presenting to secondary care with palpitation do not have serious underlying cardiovascular conditions. Concurrent psychological problems are common and persistent. Aetiology may be seen as an interaction of pathology, awareness of normal physiology, and psychological variables. Few patients require specialist cardiological treatment, but simple reassurance is of limited effectiveness. A stepped care approach may improve outcomes and needs rigorous evaluation.
Document Type: Original article
Publication date: 2003-02-01
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