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Arrhythmias can be hard to diagnose, especially the types that only cause symptoms every once in a while. Doctors use several methods to help diagnose arrhythmias, including medical and family histories, physical exam, and diagnostic tests and procedures.
Doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases include:
To diagnose an arrhythmia, your doctor may ask about your signs and symptoms. He or she may ask about what symptoms you're having, whether you feel fluttering in your chest, and whether you feel dizzy or lightheaded.
Your doctor will listen to the rate and rhythm of your heart and for a heart murmur. He or she also will:
Diagnostic Tests and Procedures
An EKG is the most common test used to diagnose arrhythmias. An EKG is a simple test that detects and records the heart's electrical activity.
Holter and Event Monitors
A Holter monitor records the heart's electrical signals for a full 24- or 48-hour period. You wear one while you do your normal daily activities. This allows the monitor to record your heart for a longer time than a standard EKG.
Other tests used to diagnose arrhythmias are:
Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that you may or may not feel. The key to diagnosis is to record your heartbeat at the time that the irregularity is happening. There are recording devices that you can carry that will allow this to be done easily. If you feel the irregular heartbeat and it lasts for even as long as a minute, there is a device you can carry in your pocket and place over your chest when you feel the problem. The heartbeat will be recorded electronically at just that moment. If your problem is less frequent or perhaps you don't feel it, there is a device that looks like a cell phone with wires that can be attached to your skin and allows the rhythm problem to be recorded automatically. Both of these devices then transmit the recording over either the cell phone system or a regular telephone so your doctor can see it. There are other ways to record the problem as well. Sometimes, the rhythm is occurring when you are with the doctor and then it can be recorded using a regular EKG machine. Under certain circumstance, it is necessary for the doctor to actually cause your heart to have the rhythm disturbance. This is done in a specialized facility called an electrophysiology laboratory and only by a very specialized physician called a cardiac electrophysiologist. Although this sounds scary, it actually is very safe and allows the rhythm to be diagnosed in a safe manner.