Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) - Experience

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What are premature ventricular contractions?

Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are premature heartbeats originating from the ventricles of the heart. Premature ventricular contractions are premature because they occur before the regular heartbeat.

Normal function of the heart

The heart has four chambers. The upper two chambers are the atria, and the lower two chambers are the ventricles.

  • The atria deliver blood to the ventricles, and the ventricles deliver blood to the lungs and to the rest of the body.
  • The right ventricle delivers blood to the lungs while the left ventricle delivers blood to the rest of the body.
  • The heartbeat (pulse) that we feel is caused by the contraction of the ventricles.

The heartbeat is normally controlled by the electrical system of the heart. The electrical system of the heart consists of the sinoatrial (SA) node, the atrioventricular (AV) node and special tissues in the ventricles that conduct electricity.

The SA node is the heart's electrical pacemaker. It is a small patch of cells located in the wall of the right atrium; the frequency with which the SA node discharges electricity determines the rate at which the heart normally beats. The SA node keeps the heart beating in a regular manner. At rest, the frequency of the electrical discharges originating from the SA node is low, and the heart beats at the lower range of normal (60 to 80 beats/minute). During exercise or excitement, the frequency of discharges from the SA node increases, increasing the rate at which the heart beats. In people who exercise regularly, the resting heart rate may be below 50 to 60 and is not of concern.

The electrical discharges pass from the SA node through the special tissues of the atria into the AV node and through the AV node to the special conduction tissues of the ventricles, causing them to contract.

Picture of the heart (left and right atria, left and right ventricles, and other parts.)
Picture of the heart (left and right atria, left and right ventricles, and other parts).
Picture of the cross section of the heart.
Picture of the cross section of the heart.
Return to Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Tbrad, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: October 28

I am a 32 year old female, not in the best of health, overweight with high blood pressure and a smoker. About 2 months ago I went to the emergency room because my heart would beat so hard it felt like a thud in my chest. This abnormal heartbeat caused me no pain but was very concerning to me especially since heart disease and attacks are high in my family. Upon the doctor's exam he found nothing and sent me home with the diagnosis of caffeine overdose. I went upon my daily routines cutting back the pop and sugar in my diet and also quitting smoking but the palpitations still continued, so I made an appointment with my regular doctor. He took my blood pressure, oxygen level and ECG and diagnosed me with PVC. He seems to think that my irregular heart beat is caused by stress and anxiety so he prescribed me Celexa. I will return to the doctor in 3 to 4 weeks for a checkup.

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Comment from: philatelia, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 23

I first discovered I was having PVCs after experiencing periods of gray outs after exercise. After wearing a Holter monitor, I found that I had ventricular tachycardia of 30+ beats after exercise. I start to black out during those events. I had all the tests and my heart appears normal. I had an echo, an angiogram, an EP (electrophysiology) study and a cardiac MRI; all normal. I am currently taking Cardizem and it has helped, but I still have frequent PVCs but not so many long runs of V tach. My doctors are puzzled and can find no cause. It is still scary to start getting those runs of PVCs and wondering if they are always going to revert back to a normal rhythm. Scary stuff!

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