Emergency rooms across the country will be prepared this holiday season for the anticipated rise in what has been labeled the “Holiday Heart Syndrome.”  The name was coined by cardiologist Dr. Philip Ettinger in 1978, and the name has stuck.

The condition known as “Holiday Heart Syndrome” is triggered by alcohol, caffeine and excessive amounts of food.  This mix can result in palpitations and atrial fibrillation in otherwise healthy people.  Patients may come to the ER with complaints that their heart is racing out of their chest.  In the most severe cases of untreated atrial fibrillation, a patient is at risk for a stroke.

Emergency physician Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York is quoted in MedPage Today “Patients get so full, and they start to get palpitations.”  They may respond to iv hydration, or they may require a beta blocker or calcium channel blocker to help slow the heart.  Severe cases may require heart shock by defibrillation.  Cases that do not require treatment generally resolve once the alcohol has cleared from the body.

Dr. Rich O’Brien, an ER doctor in Scranton, Pennsylvania adds the additional warning about Holiday Heart Syndrome in conjunction with “energy drinks.”  He is quoted in MedPage Today as saying “Stay away from the vodka and the energy drink Red Bull, a combination known for its ability to make patients feel strung out.”

Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio.  She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committee and has been a member of the Chief Judge’s Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women’s Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.