Cardiac symptoms

Please note that these brief descriptions are not a substitute for full clinical assessment.  If you feel suddenly breathless, have severe chest pain, have a blackout or severe dizziness you should call 111 for immediate advice.

Chest Pain or Chest Discomfort

This is the most common reason to see a Cardiologist.  Many patients ignore chest heaviness or a dull ache, but this is often due to heart disease.  There are many causes of chest pain, but it is important that you tell your Doctor promptly if you are getting chest pain.  A Cardiologist will be able to assess if have angina (chest pain due to heart artery narrowing) by examining you and your ECG (an electrical picture of the heart).  A stress ECG (an ECG while walking on a treadmill) is often used and some patients need angiography (X-Ray pictures of the heart arteries).
It is important to find out if chest discomfort is due to heart disease because early treatment is more effective and can reduce the chance of having a heart attack.


When the heart or the lungs are not working effectively then this causes shortage of breath.  If the heart is to blame then often there is some ankle swelling, an irregular pulse or some previous heart disease such as high blood pressure or angina. Cardiologists examine the heart and use an ECG, a blood test and often a Chest X-Ray to determine if breathlessness is due to heart disease.  There are many treatments available and ultrasound pictures of the heart (Echocardiograms) help decide on the best treatment.


This is a feeling of your heart beating in your chest, stomach or neck.  People usually only notice palpitation if their heartbeat is irregular or too fast.  A full description of the palpitation and when it happens together with an examination of the heart and an ECG will determine if the palpitation is due a minor or more serious heart arrhythmia (an abnormal heart rhythm).  Usually a hand held ECG monitor that the patient takes home for a few days is required to make an exact diagnosis so that treatment can be started.

Blackouts/ Dizzy Spells

These can be caused by abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure and abnormal function of the brain and middle ear.  The type and timing of spells give clues as to the cause.  24 hour ECG monitors (a small ECG monitor that is attached to you for a day) and other longer-term ECG monitors are used to find the cause of blackouts and dizzy spells.

Heart Murmurs

When a Doctor listens to the heart and hears a ‘whooshing’ sound like fast flowing water then this is called a heart murmur. Some heart murmurs are not serious, but some are due to leaking or narrow heart valves.  A Cardiologist can tell if the murmur is serious or not and uses an echocardiogram to take pictures of the heart valves.  Most heart murmurs just need regular checks, but some need operations to replace defective valves.