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Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC)

What is a PVC and What Does it Feel Like?

PVC’s are also called premature beats, extra beats and is the most often cause of an irregular pulse or heart palpitations. PVC’s start in the ventricles (lower chamber of the heart). If you have ever felt your heart “stop”, “skip a beat” or experienced a “flutter” or a feeling in your throat then it was probably PVC. The heart does not skip a beat or stop but instead an extra beat comes sooner than expected. Then there is a pause after the early beat that causes the heart to beat more forcefully.

How Frequently Do PVC’s Occur?

In the United States PVC’sare a common arrhythmia and can occur in patients with or without heart disease. Premature beats are very common in healthy children and teenagers. When healthy middle aged men were studied with outpatient cardiac monitory PVC’soccurred in 60% of this group. In patients who have had a heart attack PVC’s were seen in 80% of this group .. PVC frequency increases with age reflecting the increased incidence of cardiac disease in the older population. Most PVC’sare felt when the person is at rest and their heart rate is slow

What Tests Should be Ordered if PVC’s are Detected?

Routinely your physicians will order a few tests to detect if you have cardiac problems. An Exercise Stress Test will detect narrowed coronary arteries and an Echocardiogram will help to detect any structural heart problems, specifically valvular problems. A Holter Monitor will help to record the frequency of PVC’s and other arrhythmias that occur in a 24 hr. period. Lab tests may be ordered to check your blood’s electrolytes

What is the Treatment for PVC’s?

The treatment for PVC’s depends on the underlying cause. Most patients with PVC’s with or without symptoms do not require any treatment. Usually no cause can be found and no special treatment is needed. The premature beats may disappear later. If your physician decides you need treatment, medications such as beta blockers may be ordered.

Any Other Recommendations?

In some cases caffeine containing substances can increase the frequency of PVC’s. These substances should be avoided to ascertain if they affect PVC frequency – coffee, tea, alcohol, illegal substances such as cocaine and stimulants. Over the counter preparations that contain pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, decongestants in cold preparation”s, diet pills) and certain herbs such as St. John’s Wort and Ginkgo Biloba can also increase PVC frequency.

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