Objectives: To explore and establish the diagnosis, syndrome classification and syndrome differentiation criteria of palpitations below the heart in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in order to lay a foundation for the clinical diagnosis, treatment and research of palpitations below the heart.
Methods: In the early stage of this study, we searched the literature related to palpitations below the heart in TCM in domestic and foreign databases, analyzed the results and developed an expert consultation questionnaire. Using the Delphi method, a survey was conducted by 19 expert TCM practitioners. The survey results were statistically analyzed, aggregated and categorized to create the next round of questionnaires, and the process was repeated was repeated for a total of 4 rounds of expert opinions and until a consensus was achieved. Finally, the questionnaire items were classified into the main diagnosis (primary disease) and secondary diagnosis (secondary disease) for each syndrome.
Results: This study was completed ahead of schedule after 2 rounds of expert questionnaire surveys. A total of 19 exceptional TCM experts from all over China reached a consensus on 1 diagnostic standard and 4 syndrome types. The main diagnoses of palpitations below the heart included "conscious sub cardiac epigastric beating," "throbbing at the lower part of the heart" and "palpitation rhythm consistent with the pulse and obvious pulsation in the heart area," while the secondary diagnosis was "palpitation obvious after nervous tension, fatigue, drinking water or changing body position." Based on the balance of TCM Yin (negative, dark, feminine) and Yang (positive, bright, masculine) energy, TCM syndrome differentiation (Bian Zheng - the comprehensive analysis of clinical information obtained from the 4 main diagnostic TCM procedures: observation, listening, questioning, and pulse analysis, that is used to guide the choice of treatment by acupuncture and/or TCM) of palpitations below the heart are differentiated as heart yang deficiency syndrome, middle yang deficiency syndrome, kidney yang deficiency syndrome and phlegm drink syndrome, and the main and secondary syndromes of each are established. In the consultation process, the expert opinions were highly correlated, questionnaire reliability was strong and the results were credible.
Conclusions: The criteria proposed in this study do not claim to be the best or the most accurate, but they do provide some guidelines for practitioners, a basis for clinical differentiation and treatment with TCM and a basis for further randomized controlled trials in the future. Further research is needed in order to reach a consensus regarding TCM treatment of palpitations below the heart.