Table of Contents
- What are premature ventricular contractions (PVCs)?
- What happens during a premature ventricular contraction?
- How common are premature ventricular contractions?
- What causes premature ventricular contractions?
- What are premature ventricular contraction symptoms?
- What are the dangers of premature ventricular contractions?
- How is premature ventricular contraction diagnosed (EKG and Holter)?
- How is premature ventricular contraction diagnosed (echo and stress test)?
- How is premature ventricular contraction diagnosed (ECST and blood tests)?
- What are the reasons for treating premature ventricular contractions?
- What medications treat premature ventricular contractions?
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.
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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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