Table of Contents
What is Premature Ventricular Contraction
An early heartbeat that causes the sensation of a skipped beat. Most often premature ventricular contractions are harmless. They may occur spontaneously, without apparent cause, and are most noticeable at rest or following strenuous exercise. CAFFEINE, pseudoephedrine (a vasoconstrictor and stimulant common in cold and allergy products), NICOTINE (tobacco), and anxiety (stress) may also cause premature ventricular contractions. PVCs require a doctor’s evaluation when they occur
- repeatedly over a period of time rather than in isolation
- with CHEST PAIN or discomfort
- with lightheadedness, dizziness, or SYNCOPE (fainting)
A doctor also should evaluate PVCs in anyone who has diagnosed CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE (CVD), particularly an ARRHYTHMIA disorder. Occasionally PVCs can trigger a more serious arrhythmia such as ventricular tachycardia. An ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (ECG) can identify PVCs. Because PVCs tend to be intermittent, the doctor may use a Holter monitor ECG, which records the heart’s electrical activity over a period of 24 hours.
Unless PVCs indicate a serious underlying arrhythmia, cardiologists usually do not treat them. Often, eliminating potential causes such as caffeine can put an end to the PVCs. The cardiologist may prescribe a beta blocker for persistent PVCs, after ruling out other cardiovascular conditions.