Premature ventricular contractions, sometimes called PVCs, are extra beats in the heart rhythm. These extra beats begin in the lower chambers of the heart, known as the ventricles, and can cause feelings of jumping, skipped beats and fluttering. However, some people with PVCs have no symptoms at all.
Frequently, there may be no explanation when someone is experiencing PVCs. In people with no other heart conditions, PVCs most likely do not need treatment and are not concerning.
Other times PVCs may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the body, including electrolyte or magnesium levels that are abnormal. PVCs may also be a side effect of certain medications or other substances, such as illegal drugs, alcohol, caffeine or tobacco.
While many PVCs are no cause for concern, some heart conditions are associated with PVCs. These include:
Anytime you feel sensations of skipped beats or flutters in the heart, it's important to bring it to your physician's attention. Your physician can do preliminary tests to make sure there is nothing else of concern happening.
"Sometimes PVCs reflect some underlying problem, so it's important to get checked and make sure there is no problem," said Adam Shapira, MD, medical director of electrophysiology services at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano. "There could be other things happening that may need investigation and explanation."
Those experiencing frequent PVCs or who have an associated heart condition need to address the cause of the PVCs to prevent further heart complications. In some cases, PVCs can increase the chance of other arrhythmia problems, where the heart beats irregularly, too fast or too slow, or weaken the heart's ability to pump blood.
PVCs are targeted either with the reassurance that there is no cause for concern, medications, or ablation (which is an invasive procedure used to eliminate the abnormal electrical signals causing the irregular rhythm). In some cases, changing lifestyle habits and removing the substances that are triggering the PVCs can help lessen the issue.
"The treatment depends on how bad the symptoms are and depends on what other things are going on with the person's heart, such as blocked heart arteries, heart failure or heart valve problems," Dr. Shapira said.
If the cause is a blocked heart artery, the person may need medications, a stent or bypass surgery to restore blood flow. Those with heart failure may need medication and other lifestyle changes to help manage their condition.
Find out more about the diagnostic and treatment options offered for heart rhythm disorders at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano.
Physicians are members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Health Care System's subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and are neither employees nor agents of those medical centers, The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano or Baylor Health Care System.