Premature Ventricular Beats

(Ventricular Premature Beats; Premature Ventricular Contractions; Ventricular Ectopic Beats)

Definition

A premature ventricular beat (PVB) is an extra heartbeat caused by abnormal electrical activity. It starts in the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) before a normal heartbeat occurs. PVB interferes with the heart’s normal rhythm and causes a pause before the next heartbeat. It may feel like a heartbeat is skipped. PVBs are common, especially among the elderly. They can occur in people who are healthy, in which case they are harmless. However, when they occur after a heart attack or heart surgery, they can lead to dangerous heart rhythms. In some cases, these rhythms can cause sudden death. You should contact your doctor right away if you suspect you have PVBs after a heart attack or heart surgery.
Ventricular Contraction
Nucleus image
A beat (contraction) of the lower chambers of the heart.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

The causes of PVBs include:
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Physical exercise
  • Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Certain medications, especially those that stimulate the heart
  • Heart disease:

Risk Factors

PVB frequency increases with age and are most common in the elderly. PVBs are also more common in men. Other factors that may increase your chance of PVBs include:
  • African Americans ethnicity
  • Heart disease
  • Use of caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

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