Arrhythmia Health Center

Sometimes arrhythmias are difficult to diagnose, and even more difficult when they only cause symptoms from time to time. Often times arrhythmias are diagnosed by specialized doctors such as cardiologists, pediatric cardiologists, or electrophysiologists.

Family History

A doctor will ask a patient about his or her family's medical history. In addition, they will ask about medications the patient is taking and their health habits. They may also ask about recent emotional stress or anger. The doctor will want to know whether you or anyone in your family has:

  • a history of heart disease
  • a history of high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • thyroid problems
  • a history of arrhythmias
  • died suddenly
  • other illnesses or health problems


The doctor will perform a physical exam. This may include:

  • Listening to the patient's heart rate and rhythm
  • Listening for a heart murmur (an unusual sound)
  • Checking the patient's pulse for the heart rate
  • Looking for swelling in the patient's feet or legs. This could be a sign of heart failure or an enlarged heart
  • Checking for signs of other diseases that could be causing the problem

EKG (Electrocardiogram)

This is the most common test for arrhythmia. Simple and painless, an EKG records the heart's electrical activity. It shows the heart's rhythm and rate. The standard test records the heart for a few seconds and will not show any arrhythmias that don't happen during those few seconds.

The doctor may require the patient to wear a portable EKG monitor to diagnose arrhythmias that come and go. Commonly used portable EKG monitors are Holter monitors and event monitors. A Holter monitor is worn during normal daily activities and records the heart's electrical activity for either 24 hours or 48 hours. An event monitor is similar to the Holter monitor except it only records at certain times. There are other monitors, such as ones that you activate with a button when you start to feel symptoms.

Other Procedures and Tests

The doctor may use any of the following tests to help to confirm or eliminate their diagnosis:

  • Blood test
  • Chest X-Ray
  • Echocardiography
  • Stress Test
  • Electrophysiology study (EPS)
  • Tilt table testing
  • Coronary angiography
  • Implantable loop recorder
Review Date: 
June 15, 2012
Last Updated:
August 5, 2014