If you’ve been feeling palpitations when your fingertips are against your neck, this can mean more than one situation internally.

“Pulsations in the neck during palpitations are either secondary to rapid filling of the carotid artery, or from pulsations of the internal jugular vein,” says Michael Hoosien, MD, MSc, a cardiac electrophysiologist with Piedmont Heart Hospital in Atlanta, GA.

“This is a common occurrence during many abnormal heart rhythms, and is not necessarily indicative of a dangerous arrhythmia,” continues Dr. Hoosien.

Nevertheless, it is not wise to obsessively feel what’s going on under the skin of your neck and let your imagination fly wild.

“Specific pulsatile patterns of the internal jugular vein could be a sign of ventricular tachycardia, which is often considered a more dangerous type of heart rhythm abnormality,” says Dr. Hoosien.

What is ventricular tachycardia?

Also known as “V-tach,” abnormal electrical signals make the heart beat abnormally fast — exceeding 100 beats/minute.

The beating is out of synch with the heart’s upper chambers. The may cause inadequate filling of the heart before each beat.

This arrhythmia might last only a few seconds and doesn’t always cause symptoms. It’s more likely to produce symptoms when it lasts longer.

These include feeling dizzy or lightheaded, feeling palpitations or even passing out.

What makes V-tach expecially dangerous is that it can cause sudden cardiac arrest.

However, sudden cardiac arrest from V-tach usually happens in those with other cardiac disorders such as a prior heart attack

Dr. Hoosien continues, “That being said, it would be difficult for an individual patient to identify this physical finding — it would require a trained medical provider.”

A cardiologist who specializes in the electrical activity of the heart is an electrophysiologist.

This is the specialist you’ll want to see to find out why you’re feeling what you believe are palpitations in your neck.

Dr. Hoosien treats patients with heart arrhythmias and has a special interest in catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation, management of ventricular and supraventricular tachycardia, and cardiac resynchronization therapy.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Adam Gregor