Are Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC) Dangerous? What are the Treatment Options?

Posted on February 4, 2019

Almost any kind of heart condition merits close observation and greater attention. But there are certainly specific conditions out there that simply deserves an immediate red flag upon confirmed diagnosis. For one, even something as seemingly gentle as an arrhythmia shouldn’t be shrugged off.

This is especially true if its symptoms are similar to PVCs (premature ventricular contractions), which are more often than not, considered as generally harmless. It has to be asserted that this is not always the case, as you’ll soon find out with the details about this kind of heart condition that we’ve laid out in this post.

Premature Ventricular Contractions

What are Premature Ventricular Contractions?

Premature ventricular contractions or PVCs are essentially irregularities in your heart rhythm that are focused on and begins in the ventricles of your heart. It usually occurs because the said ventricles initiate a single heartbeat instead of the sinoatrial node, which is what normally begins it. It’s a fairly common event in people and often goes asymptomatic. These are but some of the reasons why it’s considered as a fairly harmless condition.

What Causes PVCs?

The number one cause of these abnormal ventricular contractions is heart damage. If you are suffering from chronic hypertension that is undiagnosed and untreated, this could eventually lead to heart scarring that would result in disturbances in the heart’s electrical impulses.

Other primary causes include,

  • Anxiety: When the body is in fight or flight mode, the body secretes more adrenaline that could have physical manifestations that appear in the heart. PVCs are but some of them, but they usually only last until what’s triggering your anxiety disappears.
  • Low levels of oxygen in the blood: If you are suffering from respiratory ailments like pneumonia, this could result in a decrease in oxygen levels, which could, in turn, bring about a PVC.
  • Anemia:  Lack of red blood cells could cause the heart to work harder and be more prone to irregular heartbeats.
  • Alcohol: Inebriation can also affect heart function in general. While the condition is generally devoid of symptoms, there are cases that could cause chest pain and shortness of breath. A pounding heart could also be a tell-tale sign of PVC or it could also manifest itself as a regular arrhythmia.

The Common Methods to Detect a Premature Ventricular Contraction

What’s good is that premature ventricular contraction are very easily detectable in a routine ECG test. This is because they immediately stand out as a high wave in the ECG paper that is noticeably out of rhythm in the series of waves that are printed on it. These are technically the ventricular contractions that beat sooner than normal, causing the disharmony in the normal way the heart pumps blood.

If you are wearing a Holter monitor, this can also easily pinpoint the exact moment that a PVC occurs. If the said monitor was assigned to you because you already have an underlying heart condition, then you should certainly be more wary of the occurrences of a premature ventricular contraction. As to why this is so, this will be explained in more depth in the next section.

When Can a PVC Become Life-Threatening?

A premature ventricular contraction can become dangerous in cases where the patient is already suffering from another major heart condition. How dangerous? It could, for example, contribute to the occurrence of heart disease if the patient has also been diagnosed as having a congenital heart disorder. Cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart’s muscles) might occur.

Another scarier condition that it could bring about is ventricular fibrillation, a very dangerous type of arrhythmia, which actually has a chance to result in sudden death due to the failure of the heart to function altogether. While these conditions and events are usually considered as rare occurrences, the fact they still have a chance of happening doesn’t make them exempt to closer observation and study.

In short, having a major heart condition and experiencing PVCs at the same time should certainly be a cause for alarm. This hinges a lot on the fact that the ventricular contractions could be a symptom or harbinger of a more dangerous, possibly life-threatening cardiac event (an abnormal heart rhythm that could trigger a heart disease) which could occur if you allow it to go undiagnosed and untreated for an extended duration.

How are PVCs Usually Treated?

If your heart is generally healthy, it’s not uncommon for PVCs to subside on their own. However, if the PVCs are showing a consistent pattern of occurrence, then a lot of doctors may start administering beta and calcium blockers to the patient. More dangerous symptoms might require catheter ablation, though.

Good Ways to Prevent PVCs

The best method to ensure that premature ventricular contractions are always kept at bay, especially in high-risk patients, is consistent monitoring. A cardiac ECG monitoring service, for instance, would be a very good option as these usually make long-term monitoring very convenient and more effective for attending physicians and patients alike.

These monitoring services have proven to be especially beneficial in cases where the patient normally doesn’t experience symptoms. Even if that’s the case yet the PVCs are regular, once they are detected, this could prompt the cardiologist to conduct a closer inspection of the patient’s heart. A remote heart monitoring solution would be able to effectively bring about this kind of unprecedented mitigation.

Adapting a healthier diet and lifestyle could prove to be equally advantageous for patients with recurring PVCs, with a generally healthier intake of food showing being enough to reduce the frequency of events. Of course, regular exercise should also never be left out of the equation. Not only does it lead to better physical health, but it’s also a good way to handle and get rid of excess stress, which happens to directly contribute to PVCs.

With that said, making sure that your heart is in optimum condition should surely be a priority if you want to reduce the risk of having untoward outcomes that are directly or indirectly brought about by premature ventricular contractions. Consistent vigilance through monitoring and discipline are undoubtedly the keys to achieving this.

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