Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) are sometimes known as premature cardiac beats, as they are extra heartbeats that begin within the heart’s ventricles (one of two – lower chambers of the heart). These extra beats can drastically disrupt the heart’s rhythm – causing patients to develop an arrythmia and feel a fluttering or the skipping of beats.

For those with occasional Premature Ventricular Contractions and otherwise healthy cardiovascular wellness, the issue is only minor concern, and can be left untreated. However, for those with more frequent occurrences of such contractions, and more severe symptoms – often a byproduct of some underlying heart disease, treatment is very necessary.

Symptoms of Premature Ventricular Contractions

Like many other arrhythmic ailments, premature ventricular contractions can present with little to no symptoms at all – aside from occasional chest pains, and discomfort. However, the most common symptoms are:

Heart PVC Symptoms:

  • Pounding heart rate.
  • Sudden jumps in heart rate.
  • Fluttering heart rate.
  • Skipped or missed beats.
  • Hearing as well as heightened awareness of your heartbeat.

It is important to contact your physician in the event you feel or hear any fluttering or missed heartbeats within the chest. While PVC might be mistaken for other issues, including other arrythmias, anxiety, anemia, infection, and some serious heart conditions.

Causes of Premature Ventricular Contractions

The heart is made up of 4 chambers, 2 ventricles at the bottom, and 2 atria at the top. The blood is pumped as a result of the contraction of these chambers, which is essentially your heart beating. The heartbeat follows a normal rhythmic pattern – controlled by the sinoatrial (SA) node, or sinus node, an area of specialized cells, located within the right atrium. This node acts as a natural pacemaker, sending electrical impulses to trigger the heart’s beating.

The premature ventricular contractions are essentially off-beat contractions, and extra contractions – caused by the damage or interruption of electrical impulse signals. Often times these premature ventricular contractions are caused by:

  • Alcohol & Drug Use/Abuse
  • Excess Adrenaline – Can be caused by a number of factors including exercise, tobacco use, caffeine consumption, or anxiety.
  • Prescription & OTC Medication – Commonly decongestants and antihistamines.
  • Injury or Trauma to the Heart – Due to Coronary Artery Disease, Congenital Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, and even Heart failure.

Lifelong Complications

Frequent PVCs can be a devastating issue, and a contributory factor to a number of heart issues that may affect you for life, including – rhythm issues like arrythmia, or the weakening heart muscles like cardiomyopathy.
And in the rarest of instances, with certain other heart disease factors – severe PVCs can lead to dangerous heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Electrocardiogram

Generally, and Electrocardiogram, ECG or EKG, can detect the additional heart beats, as well the pattern and source. Depending upon the severity and timing of your premature ventricular contractions different ECG methods may be necessary.

  • Standard ECG – Sensors attached to the chest and limbs creating a graph of the electrical impulses to the heart.

This is only for high-frequency PVC’s – for less frequent contractions a portable ECG is needed.

  • Holter Monitor – Pocket sized portable ECG. Records heart activity over a 24-48 hr period. Better for less frequent PVCs.
  • Event Recorder – Portable ECG, similar to Holter Monitor except you decide when it should record activity, i.e while you are in the midst of contractions.
  • Stress Test ECG – ECG done while you are on a treadmill to stress the heart – determines if exercise is a trigger, which it often is.

Treatment PVR

While most of those suffering from PVC can go without treatment, those with more frequent or severe cases must have a doctor’s intervention otherwise the heart’s condition can worsen drastically. Here are some common treatment options & things to do in order to limit the effects or frequency:

  • Lifestyle Change – Track and eliminate common triggers, such as caffeine consumption, tobacco use, drug/alcohol use, manage stress and any other triggers you may have found.
  • Medication – Beta Blockers are important methods for the treatment of high blood pressure, and heart disease. They can help suppress your premature contractions. Also try:
    • Calcium Channel Blockers
    • Anti-Arrythmia Drugs
    • Heart Rate Slowing Drugs
    • Blood Thinners
  • RF Catheter Ablation – RF Ablation therapy uses radiofrequency lasers to destroy the area of heart tissue causing irregular contractions.

For more information on Premature Ventricular Contractions,other cardiovascular treatment options, and to schedule your appointment, contact us today.

FAQ about Premature Ventricular Contractions

What causes frequent PVCs?

Generally, PVCs are a serious heart disorder that leads to the chaotic rhythm of your heart and to an array of other consequences, and usually, such a health issue occurs in patients of all age groups. Thus, an accurate diagnosis is essential, and it is imperative to timely detect the enemy and its main triggers, so a proficient and knowledgeable cardiologist can develop a treatment plan for a patient to eliminate the risks of sudden cardiac death. The abnormal pulsation of the heart is usually provoked by triggers that make the heart beat faster. The key risk factors are:

  • frequent  and unmanageable stress, emotional overstrain, depression;
  • a feeling of anxiety, nervousness, uneasy;
  • cardiac diseases (heart failure, cardiomyopathy, etc.);
  • high blood pressure;
  • respiratory system illnesses and diseases;
  • electrolyte metabolism disorders (it means that your body is incapable of maintaining the right balance of potassium and magnesium in the blood);
  • thyroid dysfunction.

It is pivotal to understand that taking certain medications and overconsumption of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine also can lead to PVCs development. 

What is the best treatment for PVCs?

For a person, experiencing occasional PVCs with no frequent repeated episodes, who doesn’t struggle due to common signs and symptoms typical for the condition, and who hasn’t been diagnosed with other cardiac diseases, no curing is necessary. However, for patients who fight other heart disorders or are in the risk group for the development of this pathology, there are several types of treatment, depending on the patient’s key triggers. Only a competent doctor can offer a solution on the basis of examination and analysis.   

The first step in curing the condition is lifestyle correction and the control of poor habits that are the main source of rhythm troubles. Along with the required lifestyle adjustment, such as better stress management, giving up alcohol and caffeine, and smoking cessation, properly designed drug therapy (antiarrhythmic medications, beta-blockers, etc.) can also be added to the treatment scheme. The medical objective is to combat the underlying reason for PVCs, suppress the condition, and get rid of symptoms.

Are premature ventricular contractions life-threatening?

A person who experiences rare PVCs but hasn’t been diagnosed with other cardiac issues may not worry about treatment. But it is pivotal to understand that one of the types of heart rhythm disturbances is always provoked by different kinds of root causes. The reasons can vary. Stress and the presence of bad habits, such as smoking, alcohol, and being overweight are the most common triggers. Eliminating them, the restoration of heart function would be a more straightforward medical objective. The following  pathologies of the cardiovascular system can also be the source of heartbeat that deviates from what is normal or usual:

  • coronary artery disease, 
  • angina pectoris, 
  • hypertension, 
  • cardiomyopathy,
  • myocarditis. 

Also, the reason may be in the disorders of other internal organs or cancer. Detection of the underlying disease is a top medical goal to understand whether PVCs are dangerous and require immediate treatment. 

Can PVCs cause sudden death?

Usually, PVCs are not a root for the development of some more serious health issues and can lead to sudden death only if a patient has been diagnosed with another cardiac disorder. However, still suffering due to frequent extra heartbeats can lead to some issues that would be harder to manage. One of them is a weakened heart muscle. If treated and handled timely and properly with the assistance of a heart doctor, it is possible to avoid poor health outcomes.

Thus, it is recommended to track your triggers, so it will be easier for the cardiologist to suggest the smart plan of action and reduce the possibility of sudden death because if PVCs are accompanied by other troubles with the most important organ in the human body, there is a huge risk of dreadful and fatal consequences. Since the occurrence of such a condition as PVCs is possible even in low-risk and healthy people, regular checkups are imperative to maintain your well-being and heart health.