Premature Ventricular Contractions and Ventricular Tachycardia

Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs)

Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are abnormal heartbeats that begin in the lower chambers of the heart called the ventricles. The timing and frequency of PVCs can vary and some patients won’t notice any symptoms. Sometimes, PVCs can conduct every other or third beat and can feel like a skipped beat or like the heart rate is slow. This type of frequency may cause shortness of breath, fatigue and lethargy. If left untreated, PVCs can lead to a weakened heart and eventually heart failure.

The cause of the PVC is important to understand because it drives the treatment plan. Physicians diagnose PVCs using an electrocardiogram (EKG) and monitoring. Further testing with coronary angiography and imaging studies, such as MRI, may also be used.

Ventricular Tachycardia (VT)

Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is a condition where the ventricles beat too fast. One can think about VT as multiple PVCs at a fast rate. Much like PVCs, the causes, symptoms and treatment options vary by patient. VT can cause symptoms, such as lightheadedness, shortness of breath and may lead to worsening heart function.

Treatment for PVCs and VT is designed after understanding the frequency, timing, location and cause. Medical therapy is the first option. If medical therapy is ineffective, then ablation can be used. The type of ablation and potential outcomes should be discussed with your physician.