Premature ventricular contraction (PVC) is a type of abnormal heartbeat, or arrhythmia. It happens when the heartbeat begins in the lower, rather than the upper, heart chambers.

This creates an irregular heartbeat, where a premature heartbeat happens before the regular heartbeat. A pause follows the premature heartbeat, making the regular heartbeat stronger than normal.

The irregular rhythm can make it feel like the heart has skipped a beat. PVC is not usually serious but may require treatment if people have frequent PVCs or heart disease.

X-ray of a medic's case for premature ventricular contraction (PVC) -2.Share on Pinterest

PVC occurs when the heartbeat begins in the ventricles, which are the heart’s lower chambers, rather than the sinus node in the atria, or upper chambers of the heart.

Most people with PVC may not experience any symptoms. If symptoms are present, people with PVC may experience the feeling of their heart skipping a beat and a fluttering sensation.

It is common for people with PVC to experience heart palpitations.

Other symptoms of PVC may include:

The heart has two upper chambers — the atria — and two lower chambers — the ventricles. A heartbeat is a contraction of these chambers, and it occurs due to an electrical impulse.

The electrical impulse begins from the sinus node in the right atrium, which is the body’s natural pacemaker. The electrical impulse travels through the heart muscle, then through the atria, and finally, it reaches the ventricles.

With a PVC, the electrical signal begins in the ventricles in a collection of cells called the Purkinje fibers rather than the sinus node.

PVC causes a heartbeat to occur before the regular heartbeat, creating a pause before the regular heartbeat occurs. This also makes the regular heartbeat more forceful than it would typically be.

Most of the time, there is no known cause for PVC, but causes may include the following:

Frequent PVCs, meaning people have more than 1,000 per day, have a risk of leading to dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is an enlargement of the left ventricle, which can spread to the right ventricle and atria.

Dilated cardiomyopathy can cause heart failure, arrhythmia, heart valve problems, and blood clots in the heart.

To diagnose PVC, doctors will use an electrocardiogram (ECG), which records the heart’s electrical activity to identify any abnormalities with the heartbeat and rhythm.

Doctors may use a Holter monitor to help differentiate between PVC and other arrhythmia. A Holter monitor is a wearable ECG device that monitors the heart for longer periods.

Doctors may use the monitor to record the heart’s activity for 24–48 hours to diagnose PVC.

Doctors will also use blood tests to check electrolyte levels and thyroid-stimulating hormones to help them determine the underlying cause.

Doctors may also use other tests to check a person’s general heart health. This may include echocardiography, which uses ultrasound to create images of the heart. They may carry out a stress test, which measures how the heart responds during exercise.

People may not require any treatment if PVC does not cause any symptoms.

If people have symptoms or if PVC occurs frequently, treatment will depend on the underlying cause. This may include correcting an electrolyte imbalance or treating drug toxicity.

Doctors may also use the following medications to treat PVC:

Lifestyle changes, such as managing stress and reducing intake of stimulants or any triggers, including caffeine, can also be an important part of treating PVCs.

Further treatment may be necessary for people with a high frequency of PVCs, such as several thousand each day, or if PVC does not respond to medications.

Radiofrequency catheter ablation is a procedure to restore a normal heart rhythm by destroying the section of heart tissue causing the PVC. The procedure does not harm the surrounding heart tissue.

People with PVC who do not have structural heart disease and are otherwise healthy may have a similar outlook as those without PVC.

The mortality risk of PVC may increase if heart disease or left ventricular dysfunction is present.

People with over 1,000 PVCs a day may have an increased risk of dilated cardiomyopathy.

Successful treatment with radiofrequency catheter ablation may reverse heart muscle damage due to PVC.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about PVC.

Are PVCs a serious heart condition?

If people have no other health conditions or heart disease, PVC is generally not a serious condition.

Frequent PVCs of over 1,000 a day may weaken the heart muscle and lead to more serious conditions, such as dilated cardiomyopathy.

Can heart PVC go away?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), for many people, PVCs may not have any known cause and may go away without treatment.

For others, treatment and avoiding triggers may help resolve or reduce PVC occurrence.

What is the most common treatment for PVCs?

People who have no symptoms or have only mild symptoms may not require any treatment.

Otherwise, first-line treatments for PVC are catheter ablation or medications, such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or antiarrhythmic drugs.

Premature ventricular contraction (PVC) is an irregular heartbeat that occurs due to the heartbeat beginning in the lower chambers of the heart — the ventricles — rather than in the heart’s upper chambers as normal.

PVC causes a premature heartbeat, which may make people feel like their heart is skipping a beat.

If no other heart conditions are present, PVCs are not usually serious. A high frequency of PVCs or having heart disease may increase the risk of complications.