Premature Beats

A premature beat is an extra heartbeat that happens earlier than normal. Premature beats are called premature atrial contractions (PACs) or premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) depending on the area of the heart where they start.

CAUSES

Premature beats may be brought on by a variety of factors including:

  • Emotional stress.

  • Lack of sleep.

  • Caffeine.

  • Asthma medicines.

  • Stimulants.

  • Herbal teas.

  • Dietary supplements.

  • Alcohol.

In most cases, premature beats are not dangerous and are not a sign of serious heart disease. Most patients evaluated for premature beats have completely normal heart function. Rarely, premature beats may be a sign of more significant heart problems or medical illness.

SYMPTOMS

Premature beats may cause palpitations. This means you feel like your heart is skipping a beat or beating harder than usual. Sometimes, slight chest pain occurs with premature beats, lasting only a few seconds. This pain has been described as a "flopping" feeling inside the chest. In many cases, premature beats do not cause any symptoms and they are only detected when an electrocardiography test (EKG) or heart monitoring is performed.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver may run some tests to evaluate your heart such as an EKG or echocardiography. You may need to wear a portable heart monitor for several days to record the electrical activity of your heart. Blood testing may also be performed to check your electrolytes and thyroid function.

TREATMENT

Premature beats usually go away with rest. If the problem continues, your caregiver will determine a treatment plan for you.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Get plenty of rest over the next few days until your symptoms improve.

  • Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol, and soda (pop, cola).

  • Do not smoke.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your symptoms continue after 1 to 2 days of rest.

  • You have new symptoms, such as chest pain or trouble breathing.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have severe chest pain or abdominal pain.

  • You have pain that radiates into the neck, arm, or jaw.

  • You faint or have extreme weakness.

  • You have shortness of breath.

  • Your heartbeat races for more than 5 seconds.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.