The heart’s pumping action is driven by electrical stimulation within the heart muscle. The heart’s electrical system allows it to beat in an organized pattern. Electrical signals in your heart can become blocked or irregular, causing a disruption in your heart’s normal rhythm.
A premature heartbeat is an extra beat between two normal heartbeats and occurs in the ventricles before they have had time to fill with blood after a regular heartbeat.
Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC)
Premature ventricular contractions are often called PVCs or PVBs (for premature ventricular beats). They are early contractions that occur when the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) contract out of sequence with normal heart rhythm. Though they are generally harmless and usually do not require treatment, PVCs may cause more serious arrhythmias in people with heart disease or a history of ventricular tachycardia.
What Are the Symptoms?
Premature ventricular contractions often cause no symptoms. But you may feel these sensations in your chest:
- Pounding or jumping
- Skipped beats or missed beats
- Increased awareness of your heartbeat
What Are the Causes?
PVCs most often occur spontaneously; however, they can also be triggered by:
- Medications (especially decongestants)
- Certain medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, anemia, hypertension and stress
- Early or Extra Heartbeat Arrhythmias: Premature Ventricular Contractions
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Last Reviewed: March 11, 2010 900245