St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Ectopic heartbeat

    PVB (premature ventricular beat); Premature beats; PVC (premature ventricular complex/contraction); Extrasystole

    Ectopic heartbeats are small changes in an otherwise normal heartbeat that lead to extra or skipped heartbeats. They often occur without a clear cause and are most often harmless.

    The two most common types of ectopic heartbeats are:

    • Premature ventricular contractions (PVC)
    • Premature atrial contractions (PAC)

    Causes

    Sometimes ectopic heartbeats are seen with:

    • Changes in the blood, such as a low potassium level (hypokalemia)
    • Decrease in blood supply to the heart
    • Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)

    Ectopic beats may be caused or made worse by smoking, alcohol use, caffeine, medications such as stimulants, and some illicit drugs.

    Ectopic heartbeats are rare in children without heart disease that was present at birth (congenital). Most extra heartbeats in children are premature atrial contractions (PACs), which are almost always harmless.

    In adults, ectopic heartbeats are common. They are most often due to PACs or PVCs. Their causes should be investigated, although usually no treatment is needed.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Feeling your heart beat (palpitations)
    • Feeling like your heart stopped or skipped a beat
    • Feeling of occasional, forceful beats

    Note: There may be no symptoms.

    Exams and Tests

    A physical examination may show an occasionaluneven pulse. If the ectopic heartbeats do not occur very often, your doctor may notfind them during a physical exam.

    Blood pressure is usually normal.

    The following tests may be done:

    • Continuous ambulatory cardiac monitoring (Holter monitor, patient-activated recording device, or implanted loop recorder)
    • Coronary angiography
    • ECG
    • Echocardiogram

    Treatment

    Limiting caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco may reduce the risk and frequency of ectopic heartbeats in certain people. Exercise often helps people who are inactive.

    Most ectopic heartbeats do not need to be treated. The condition is only treated if your symptoms are severe or if the extra beats occur very often.

    The cause of the heartbeats, if discovered, may also need to be treated.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Sometimes, ectopic heartbeats may mean you are at increased risk for other serious abnormal heart rhythms, such as ventricular tachycardia.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You keep feeling the sensation of your heartpounding or racing(palpitations)
    • You have palpitations with chest pain or other symptoms
    • You have this condition and your symptomsget worseor do not improve with treatment

    References

    Olgin JE. Approach to the patient with suspected arrhythmias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap. 62.

    Rubart M, Zipes D. Genesis of cardiac arrhythmias: electrophysiologic considerations. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 35.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Heart, section through t...

      illustration

    • Heart, front view

      illustration

    • Electrocardiogram (ECG)

      illustration

      • Heart, section through t...

        illustration

      • Heart, front view

        illustration

      • Electrocardiogram (ECG)

        illustration

      Self Care

        Tests for Ectopic heartbeat

          Review Date: 6/18/2012

          Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile