Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs, PVC)

  • Medical Author:
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What happens during a premature ventricular contraction?

During a premature ventricular contraction, the ventricle electrically discharges (and contracts) prematurely before the normal electrical discharges arrive from the SA node. These premature discharges are due to electrical "irritability" of the heart muscle of the ventricles and can be caused by heart attacks, electrolyte imbalances, lack of oxygen, or medications. Immediately after a premature ventricular contraction, the electrical system of the heart resets. This resetting causes a brief pause in heartbeat, and some patients report feeling the heart briefly stopping after a premature ventricular contraction.

How common are premature ventricular contractions?

Premature ventricular contractions are common. Many people have premature ventricular contractions without any symptoms. Premature ventricular contractions may be more common among older patients, patients with high blood pressure, and patients with heart disease. Premature ventricular contractions can also occur in young healthy individuals without heart disease or high blood pressure.

Reviewed on 3/23/2016
References
REFERENCES:

"Sudden Cardiac Arrest." Cleveland Clinic. March 2010.

Simpson, R. J. Jr., et al. "Prevalence of premature ventricular contractions in a population of African American and white men and women: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study." American Heart Journal 143.3 (2002): 535-540.

Zipes, Douglas P. and Hein J. J. Wellens. "Sudden cardiac death." Circulation 98.21 (1998): 2334-2351.

Medically reviewed by Robert J. Bryg, board certified in internal medicine with a subspecialty in cardiovascular disease.

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