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Ventricular Premature Beats

(Ventricular Ectopic Beats; Premature Ventricular Contractions)

By

L. Brent Mitchell

, MD, Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, University of Calgary

Last full review/revision Feb 2021| Content last modified Feb 2021
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A ventricular premature beat is an extra heartbeat resulting from abnormal electrical activation originating in the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) before a normal heartbeat would occur.

  • The main symptom is a perception of a skipped heartbeat.

  • Electrocardiography is used to make the diagnosis.

  • Avoiding things that trigger these beats, such as stress, caffeine, and alcohol, is usually sufficient treatment.

Symptoms of Ventricular Premature Beats

Isolated ventricular premature beats have little effect on the pumping action of the heart and usually do not cause symptoms, unless they are extremely frequent. The main symptom is the perception of a strong or skipped beat (palpitations). Ventricular premature beats are not dangerous for people who do not have a heart disorder. However, when they occur frequently in people who have a structural heart disorder (such as a heart valve disorder or a heart attack), they may be followed by more dangerous arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia Ventricular Tachycardia Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rhythm that originates in the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart) and produces a heart rate of at least 120 beats per minute (the normal heart rate is... read more Ventricular Tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation Ventricular Fibrillation Ventricular fibrillation is a potentially fatal, uncoordinated series of very rapid, ineffective contractions of the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart) caused by many chaotic electrical... read more Ventricular Fibrillation , which can cause sudden death.

Diagnosis of Ventricular Premature Beats

Treatment of Ventricular Premature Beats

  • Lifestyle changes

  • Sometimes beta-blockers

In an otherwise healthy person, no treatment is needed other than decreasing stress and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and over-the-counter cold or hay fever remedies containing drugs that stimulate the heart.

Drug therapy is rarely used because the risk of side effects due to the drugs is usually greater than the benefit. The exception is people who recently had a heart attack or who have heart failure that causes symptoms. In such people, survival is improved if they are treated with beta-blockers (see table Some Drugs Used to Treat Arrhythmias Some Drugs Used to Treat Arrhythmias Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) are sequences of heartbeats that are irregular, too fast, too slow, or conducted via an abnormal electrical pathway through the heart. Heart disorders are... read more Some Drugs Used to Treat Arrhythmias ).

More Information

The following is an English-language resource that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

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