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 are the dangers of premature ventricular contractions?
Premature ventricular contractions in healthy individuals without high blood pressure and heart diseases do not pose any health risks. Premature ventricular contractions in patients with heart diseases (heart attacks, heart failure, diseases of the heart valves) may be associated with increased risks of developing ventricular tachycardia. Ventricular tachycardia is a sustained run of rapid ventricular contractions. Ventricular tachycardia is life-threatening because: 1) it occurs suddenly with no prior warning, and 2) it frequently develops into ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is a chaotic rhythm where the ventricles quiver rapidly in a purposeless fashion. The heart with ventricular fibrillation cannot pump blood effectively to the brain and the rest of the body. If untreated, ventricular fibrillation can be fatal within minutes. An estimated 325,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest, including ventricular fibrillation, each year. Many doctors believe that premature ventricular contractions do not necessarily cause ventricular tachycardias or ventricular fibrillations. Instead, premature ventricular contractions may be merely indicators (symptoms) of serious heart diseases or other serious conditions such as hypokalemia, hypoxia, and ongoing heart damage from heart attacks, or medications such as digoxin and aminophylline toxicity. It must be emphasized that many premature ventricular contractions are harmless (benign) and not associated with structural heart disease. If the workup for underlying heart disease is unrevealing, the patient can be assured that their prognosis is excellent.
"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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