Palpitations: Evaluation and management by primary care practitioners

Indiran Govender*, Kamelia K. Nashed, Selvandran Rangiah, Sunday Okeke, Olga M. Maphasha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Palpitations are a common, non-specific presenting complaint in primary healthcare and emergency departments. Palpitations are mostly a symptom of benign underlying disease but a sign of life-threatening conditions. Importantly, palpitations are a symptom and not a diagnosis, and cardiac causes are the most concerning aetiology. Clinicians should seek to identify the underlying cause. History and physical examination are important in the assessment of patients with palpitations, and the use of a 12-lead electrographic (ECG) monitor on presentation is the gold standard of diagnosis. If the aetiology cannot be determined, an ambulatory Holter 24–48-h monitor can be used. Treatment and follow-up of patients presenting with palpitations as the main complaint will depend on the aetiology and investigation findings. Patients with palpitations accompanied by dizziness, excessive fatigue, or chest pains should receive adequate acute care aiming to stabilise their condition before referring to a higher level of care.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera5449
JournalSouth African Family Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Arrhythmia
  • Chest pain
  • ECG
  • Palpitations
  • Tachycardia


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