Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC)

What is Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC)?

Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC) is an abnormal heart rhythm. It occurs when the heart’s ventricles — the two lower chambers — contract unusually and too early. PVCs are extra, unneeded contractions that briefly disrupt your heart’s normal rhythm. PVCs may cause you to feel a thumping sensation in your chest.

Signs and Symptoms of PVCs

Sometimes, a premature ventricular contraction may not cause any signs or symptoms that you can detect. In other cases, you may feel one or more of the following:

  • Unexplained palpitations or a fluttering sensation in your chest
  • A sudden jolt or feeling of skipped beats in your chest
  • A feeling that your heart is pounding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting

Causes of PVCs

The exact cause of PVCs is sometimes unknown. Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and stress are some of the known risk factors. In some cases, a structural abnormality or a problem with the conducting system of the heart can cause PVCs. Other causes include the use of stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco; the use of certain medications; and electrolyte imbalances caused by an illness or an over- or underactive thyroid

Diagnosis of PVCs

Your doctor will likely use a combination of tests, such as an electrocardiography (ECG) to diagnose PVCs. An ECG is a noninvasive test that records your heart’s electrical activity. During the test, you’ll attach several padded electrodes to your chest. These electrodes record your heart’s electrical activity, enabling a doctor to spot heart rhythm abnormalities, such as PVCs. In some cases, your doctor may also order an exercise stress test.

Treatment of PVCs

In some cases, treatment of PVCs may not be necessary. If your PVCs are harmless and don’t need treatment, your doctor may monitor your condition from time to time. However, in other cases, your doctor may prescribe certain medications, such as beta blockers or calcium channel blockers, to control your heart rate or rhythm. Treatment may also involve lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, reducing stress, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.