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.
(See also Overview of Abnormal Heart Rhythms Overview of Abnormal Heart Rhythms 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 .)
The electrical current that begins each heartbeat originates in the heart’s pacemaker (called the sinus node or sinoatrial node), located in the top of the upper right heart chamber (right atrium). However, a heartbeat is sometimes triggered from one of the lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles.
Ventricular premature beats are common, particularly among older people. This arrhythmia may be caused by physical or emotional stress, intake of caffeine (in beverages and foods) or alcohol, or use of cold or hay fever remedies containing drugs that stimulate the heart, such as pseudoephedrine. Other causes include coronary artery disease Overview of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) Coronary artery disease is a condition in which the blood supply to the heart muscle is partially or completely blocked. The heart muscle needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood. The coronary... read more (especially during or shortly after a heart attack Acute Coronary Syndromes (Heart Attack; Myocardial Infarction; Unstable Angina) Acute coronary syndromes result from a sudden blockage in a coronary artery. This blockage causes unstable angina or a heart attack (myocardial infarction), depending on the location and amount... read more ) and disorders that cause ventricles to enlarge, such as heart failure Heart Failure (HF) Heart failure is a disorder in which the heart is unable to keep up with the demands of the body, leading to reduced blood flow, back-up (congestion) of blood in the veins and lungs, and/or... read more and heart valve disorders Overview of Heart Valve Disorders Heart valves regulate the flow of blood through the heart's four chambers—two small, round upper chambers (atria) and two larger, cone-shaped lower chambers (ventricles). Each ventricle has... read more .
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 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 , which can cause sudden death.
Diagnosis of Ventricular Premature Beats
Treatment of Ventricular Premature Beats
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 ).
The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.
American Heart Association: Arrhythmia: Information to help people understand their risks of arrhythmias as well as information on diagnosis and treatment