Background/objectives. Symptoms suggestive of cardiac arrhythmias are a challenge to the diagnosis. Physical examination and a 12-lead ECG are of limited value, as rhythm disturbances are frequently of a paroxysmal nature. New technologies facilitate a more accurate diagnosis. The objective of this study was to review the medical literature in an effort to define a guide to rational diagnostic testing. Methods. Primary studies on the use of a diagnostic tool in the evaluation of palpitations were searched in MEDLINE, and EMBASE with an additional reference check. Results. Two types of studies were found: descriptive and experimental studies, which compared the yield of two or more devices or diagnostic strategies. Holter monitors seemed to have less diagnostic yield (33 to 35%) than event recorders. Automatically triggered recorders detect more arrhythmias (72 to 80%) than patient-triggered devices (17 to 75%). Implantable devices are used for prolonged monitoring periods in patients with infrequent symptoms or unexplained syncope. Conclusion. The choice of the device depends on the characteristics of the symptoms and the patient. Due to methodological shortcomings of the included studies no evidence-based diagnostic strategy can be proposed.

Arrhythmias, Cardiology, Event recorder, General practice, Palpitations
Netherlands Heart Journal
Department of General Practice

Hoefman, E, van Weert, H.C, & Bindels, P.J.E. (2010). Efficacy of diagnostic tools for detecting cardiac arrhythmias: Systematic literature search. Netherlands Heart Journal (Vol. 18, pp. 543–551). Retrieved from