Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD.
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
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
•Reduce caffeine, alcohol,
nicotine, and stress.
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
•Do not forget to
take your prescribed medications.
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
When to Call Your
•If you have palpitations
(rapid heartbeat), chest pain, shortness of breath, or