Premature Ventricular Contractions
What are Premature Ventricular Contractions?
Premature ventricular contractions are extra heartbeats that begin in the ventricles or lower chambers of the heart and disrupt the heart’s normal rhythm. Premature ventricular contractions are the most common type of irregular heart rhythm. People with the condition may feel a skipped beat or a fluttering in the chest.
Almost everyone experiences premature ventricular contractions at some point. But frequent premature ventricular contractions could be a sign of an underlying heart problem or heart disease.
Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with heart disease and the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions such as premature ventricular contractions. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of premature ventricular contractions may not be noticed at all or result in an increased awareness of the heartbeat. Symptoms may also include:
- A fluttering or flip-flop feeling in the chest
- Pounding or jumping heartbeat
- Skipped heartbeats
- Weakness, dizziness or fainting
If your doctor suspects you have premature ventricular contractions, certain tests can help detect the problem, identify the source and look for underlying heart conditions. To determine if someone has premature ventricular contractions, we use advanced technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. These include:
Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test measures the electrical activity of the heart and can help determine if parts of the heart are enlarged, overworked or damaged. The heart’s electrical currents are detected by 12 to 15 electrodes that are attached to the arms, legs
Event monitor: This portable EKG device records the heart rate when a button is pressed. It can be worn for weeks or until symptoms occur.
Holter monitor: This portable EKG device continuously records the heart’s rhythms and is worn for 24 to 48 hours during normal activity.
Stress testing: This test is conducted during exercise. If a person can't exercise, medicine is given to increase
The following can cause premature ventricular contractions:
- Stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines
- High levels of caffeine
- Injury to the heart
- Stress and anxiety
Risk factors that could contribute to premature ventricular contractions include:
Heart disease: People with heart conditions have a higher risk of experiencing premature ventricular contractions.
Chemical imbalance: Low levels of potassium or magnesium can cause premature ventricular contractions.
Lung disease: Certain lung diseases that cause low levels of oxygen in the blood can cause premature ventricular contractions.
Occasional premature ventricular contractions are not unusual and typically resolve without treatment. There are ways you can reduce the chances of having premature ventricular contractions:
Practice good heart health: Watch what you eat, exercise, don’t smoke and avoid dangerous drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.
Take your medications as prescribed: If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or another serious health condition, be certain to take your prescribed medications as directed.
Manage stress: Get stress and anxiety under control.
Manage triggers: Reduce the use of caffeine and alcohol.
Occasional premature ventricular contractions in healthy people generally do not pose health risks. But regular episodes of premature ventricular contractions may be caused by an underlying heart condition. Prognosis for an underlying heart condition depends on the type and severity of the heart problem.
Treatment and Recovery
Premature ventricular contractions are typically not harmful and treatment is aimed at the underlying condition that causes the contractions. Treatment may include:
Eliminating triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines and managing stress can help decrease premature ventricular contractions.
During this procedure, one or more catheters are threaded through blood vessels to the heart. Electrodes at the catheter tips use heat, extreme cold or radiofrequency energy to damage (ablate) a small spot of heart tissue and create an electrical block along the pathway that’s causing atrial fibrillation or flutter.
In rare circumstances, premature ventricular contractions can increase the risk of developing heart rhythm problems or can weaken the heart muscle.
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