Ventricular Premature Beats

A ventricular premature beat is an extra heartbeat caused by an abnormal electrical impulse starting in the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) before a normal heartbeat would occur. It is also known as a ventricular ectopic beat or a premature ventricular contraction.

This is a form of arrhythmia that is similar to an atrial ectopic heartbeat. But where that affects the upper chambers of the heart (the atria), this affects the ventricles (or lower chambers of the heart).

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Symptoms

If the premature heartbeats only happen every once in awhile, there is very little impact on the heart and how it pumps. You may have no symptoms at all. Typically, if you notice the premature beats, you are aware of a strong or a skipped beat.

Ventricular premature beats can cause problems for people who have heart disease that affects the structure of their hearts. If the premature beats happen often enough, it can trigger more dangerous irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, both of which can cause sudden death.

Causes and Risk Factors

A variety of factors can cause ventricular premature beats, including:

  • Age. This condition is more common among older people
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine either in beverages such as tea and coffee, foods or certain types of over-the-counter drugs
  • Cold or hay fever remedies that have drugs that stimulate the heart, such as pseudoephedrine
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure, which causes the heart's lower chambers to enlarge
  • Stress, either physical or emotional
  • Valve disorders, which also cause the heart's lower chambers to enlarge
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Treatments

If you are healthy, have no other heart problems and the premature heartbeat doesn't happen often, no treatment may be needed. It can be helpful to reduce your stress levels and avoid caffeine, alcohol and over-the-counter cold or hay fever remedies that have drugs in them that stimulate the heart.

If the symptoms become difficult to live with, you have structural heart disease or the irregular heartbeats show signs of worsening into ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation, drugs such as beta-blockers can be helpful. Drugs to help prevent arrhythmia may be helpful in eliminating the premature beats, but may also increase the risk of a fatal arrhythmia in some people.

If frequent ventricular premature beats happen after a If you are healthy, have no other heart problems and the premature heartbeat doesn't happen often, no treatment may be needed. It can be helpful to reduce your stress levels and avoid caffeine, alcohol and over-the-counter cold or hay fever remedies that have drugs in them that stimulate the heart.

If the symptoms become difficult to live with, you have structural heart disease or the irregular heartbeats show signs of worsening into ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation, drugs such as beta-blockers can be helpful. Drugs to help prevent arrhythmia may be helpful in eliminating the premature beats, but may also increase the risk of a fatal arrhythmia in some people.

If frequent ventricular premature beats happen after a angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery may be helpful in preventing ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation that can lead to sudden death.

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