Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
As the name suggests, premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are contractions in the ventricles of the heart that occur too early in the rhythm sequence. Abnormal electrical impulses signal the ventricles to beat prematurely. PVCs are common and can happen in otherwise healthy persons. They occur more frequently among older persons. Most persons who have PVCs never notice them. Because PVCs occur out of the normal rhythm, this condition is an arrhythmia. A physician may notice an irregular pulse, or PVCs may be found on an electrocardiogram (ECG). The most common cause of PVCs among healthy persons is intake of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol and exposure to stress. PVCs occur more frequently among persons with heart disease such as ischemia (decreased blood flow to the heart muscle) or persons with congestive heart failure (decreased pumping efficiency of the heart). They also can occur because of toxicity from digitalis medications. Persons with PVCs may have the sensation of their heart missing a beat followed by a stronger beat.

Healthy persons with no symptoms of heart or lung disease need no specific treatment. The condition may resolve on its own, or PVCs may become less frequent if caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and stress are reduced. PVCs may be controlled with anti-arrhythmic medications if symptoms become disruptive.

The DOs
•Reduce caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and stress.
•Exercise. Persons with PVCs usually can exercise safely; the PVCs may even stop during exercise. If the PVCs increase in frequency with exercise (evaluated with an exercise ECG), you may have heart disease.

The DON’Ts
•Do not forget to take your prescribed medications.
•Do not forget the main goal of treatment is to manage the underlying heart or lung disease. Persons with known heart disease and frequent PVCs are at risk for arrhythmias that cause sudden death.

When to Call Your Doctor
•If you have palpitations (rapid heartbeat), chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting.