What Are Premature Ventricular Contractions?

If your heart feels out of rhythm or "flutters," especially when you have a lot of anxiety, it could be caused by premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs.

They're the most common reason for arrhythmia, or an irregular heart rhythm.

Some of the other names for PVCs are:

  • Premature ventricular complexes
  • Ventricular premature beats
  • Extrasystoles

PVCs aren't a reason to be concerned if you're healthy otherwise. In fact, most of us get them at some point. But if you have them often, it could be a sign of heart disease or another health problem.


If you get PVCs once in a while, you may feel like your heart "skipped a beat," but that's not what happens. They actually cause an extra beat. Feeling like it skipped comes from the force of the beat after the PVC.

If you get them more often, you may have more of a fluttering sensation. And if they happen enough that they affect your heart's ability to pump blood, you may feel dizzy or weak.

Talk to your doctor if you've had any of those symptoms. They could be caused by harmless PVCs. Or they could be related to other conditions, such as:


Your heart has four chambers that pump blood. The two on top are called atria, and the two on bottom are called ventricles. Heartbeats are triggered by electrical charges that cause the four chambers to squeeze and pump blood. PVCs are extra heartbeats that start in one of the ventricles.

If you have PVCs, your heartbeat pattern goes like this: normal heartbeat, extra beat (PVC), slight pause, and then a stronger-than-normal beat. That last beat has extra "kick" because your heart fills with more blood during the pause.

Experts aren't sure what causes the extra beat known as PVC. They tend to happen for no real reason, but certain triggers and health conditions may play a role. These include:



Even if you've never had symptoms, you may be diagnosed with PVCs during a routine heart test called an electrocardiogram (ECG). It's the same test a doctor would give you if you came in with specific symptoms of PVCs. During this test, sticky patches with sensors called electrodes are put on your chest. They record electrical impulses that travel through your heart.

The test only takes a few minutes, and that may not be long enough to notice an occasional PVC. In that case, you may get a portable ECG. There are two types:

  • Holter monitor: A device you can carry in your pocket or wear on your belt. It records your heart's activity for a 24-to-48-hour period.
  • Event recorder: When you feel symptoms, you push a button to record your heart's activity so your doctor can see its rhythm during that time.

Another type of ECG is called an exercise stress test. It's like a standard ECG, but it's done while you're on a bike or a treadmill.If PVCs don't happen often during this test, they're usually thought to be harmless. If exercise seems to cause extra beats, you may be at higher risk of other heart rhythm problems.


You probably don't need medical treatment for PVCs if they don't happen often and you don't have other health conditions. But some lifestyle changes may help you control them: Limit caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, and manage your stress and anxiety.

If your doctor finds that your PVCs are caused by heart disease or a problem with the structure of your heart, they should go away if those conditions are treated.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on November 17, 2016



Cleveland Clinic: "Premature Ventricular Contractions."

Mayo Clinic: "Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs)."

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