EXTRASYSTOLES; A PATIENT'S POINT OF VIEW
Palpitations were unknown to me until that evening while I was studying quietly. I was 23 years old at the time, I am now over 50, and I clearly recall how it all began.
My heart started skipping beats that night. The truth is that my heart was not skipping beats, it felt as though it was having a premature contraction outside its normal rhythm. It seemed that my heart was pumping blood out of a vacuum. It was as though my heart suddenly stopped before it went back to its normal rhythm with a forceful contraction. That sequence happened again and again at intervals of 3, 4 or 5 heartbeats.
Perturbing and stressful!
I noticed also that whenever I moved, walked or ran, my heart would return to its normal rhythm and I no longer felt those jolts to my heart.
Where that sensations come from
Let me explain how and why I had those sensations in that particular sequence.
Every heartbeat releases a pulsation that is perceptible when taking one's pulse. The pulsation corresponds to the volume of blood that enters the aorta before it flows into the arteries.
The heart fills up with blood between heartbeats and the cardiac contractions that follow thereafter.
An extrasystole occurs when there is a premature contraction of the heart. The heart does not have enough time to completely fill up with blood and is therefore ejected in a smaller amount. The pulse is weak, almost undetectable.
Generally speaking, the heartbeat that follows an extrasystole happens somewhat later than when it functions at its usual rhythm. It feels as though the heart has completely stopped beating. That delay allows the heart to fill up over a longer period of time and increases the volume of blood that is ejected before the next contraction. The pulse is fully perceptible.
The above describes what is felt when an extrasystole occurs; it is as though the heart pumps blood from an empty space, stops and a forceful contraction follows. There are several possible shades in the above sequence, such as they exist in the overall range of colors.
It’s not dangerous
Do keep in mind that extrasystoles are usually without consequences and are not dangerous.
They are more easily perceived in a calm environment and may happen at anytime during the day.
How to help the healthcare professional
A clear description of the contractions or palpitations that are felt helps the health professional in establishing a diagnosis.
Easy to say
I admit that my cardiologist tried to reassure me. This is easier said than done, I was still worried that my heart would let me down, no matter what. It was only some time later that I realized that my doctor was right.
Very often, there is no particular cause for a cardiac muscle excitation or contraction. Blood tests are performed to verify how the thyroid gland is working and/or check the patient's blood components. All my results were nornal.
There were some medications I wanted to try, and I did. I gave them up on account of their side effects and because I still felt palpitations.
Tests that maybe requested
An echocardiogram and a holter were prescribed. The 24-hour holter monitoring indicated extrasystoles while the heart scan showed nothing abnormal.
Extrasystoles are part of my life to this day with occurrences of varying frequency, depending on the seasons. They impose no specific restrictions on my lifestyle.
I do hope that the account of my personal experience helped you better understand extrasystoles and their symptoms, and that I succeeded in reassuring you somewhat of their relatively benign nature.
Don't miss: Extrasystoles; the medical point of view