Ectopic heartbeat

Alternative Names

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

Definition of Ectopic heartbeat

Ectopic heartbeat is an irregularity of the heart rate and heart rhythm involving extra or skipped heartbeats.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Ectopic heartbeats are small variations in an otherwise normal heartbeat that causes an irregular pulse. They may occur without an obvious cause and are usually harmless.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

Signs and tests

A physical examination may show an occasional, irregular pulse, but if the ectopic beats do not occur frequently, your doctor may not detect them during a physical exam.

Treatment

Most ectopic heartbeats do not require treatment. The condition is treated if your symptoms are severe or if the extra beats occur very frequently.

Expectations (prognosis)

Ectopic heartbeats are generally benign, requiring no treatment. Occasionally, they may indicate an increased risk for other cardiac arrhythmias.

Review

Issam Mikati, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Director, Northwestern Clinic Echocardiography Lab, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 6/1/2010

Heart, section through the middle
Heart, front view
Electrocardiogram (ECG)

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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