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Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs)

Topic Overview

Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are heartbeats that occur earlier than they should. These early beats briefly interrupt the heart's rhythm.

A PVC may feel like a skipped heartbeat or a flutter. PVCs are the most common type of change in heart rhythm. They are common in children and teens as well as in adults.

Early heartbeats can happen in the upper chambers (atria) or lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. With PVCs, the ventricles beat early. An extra beat is followed by a pause and then a stronger heartbeat. It's this stronger heartbeat that creates the feeling of a skipped beat or a flutter.

In people who have healthy hearts, occasional PVCs are nothing to worry about. They usually go away on their own. They don't need treatment. Talk to your doctor if you have other symptoms along with PVCs, such as dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting. Some people may take medicine to prevent these heartbeats and to relieve symptoms.

If you have a known heart problem, such as heart failure or heart disease, PVCs may be a sign that a dangerous heart rhythm could occur. So if you have a heart problem, talk to your doctor if you feel any change in your heartbeat.

The cause of PVCs usually isn't known. But the chance of having PVCs can be increased by:

  • Having too much or too little of certain minerals (electrolytes) in your body.
  • Having too little oxygen in your blood, which could happen if you have COPD or pneumonia.
  • Using some medicines, such as albuterol.
  • Having too much caffeine or alcohol.
  • Smoking.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Al-Khatib SM, et al. (2017). 2017 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for management of patients with ventricular tachycardias and the prevention of sudden cardiac death. Circulation, published online October 30, 2017. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000549. Accessed November 6, 2017.
  • Olgin JE, Zipes DP (2015). Specific arrhythmias: Diagnosis and treatment. In DL Mann et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 10th ed., vol. 1, pp. 748-797. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJohn M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology

Current as ofDecember 6, 2017

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