Ventricular ectopics FAQs

View our short videos designed specifically to answer all your questions about Ventricular ectopics

On this page, we discuss what ventricular ectopics are, their symptoms and their causes. We also explore your treatment options in detail so you can make an informed choice about your care.

Summary

  • Ventricular ectopics are very common and most often benign
  • Cardiac investigations rule out underlying causes, such as heart muscle disease and establish the ectopic burden
  • Lifestyle measures are often sufficient to improve symptoms
  • Medications and catheter ablation are safe and effective. We can use these successfully if there is a high frequency of ectopics or if symptoms persist despite simple measures

If you have any symptoms of ventricular ectopics, book an appointment today.

What are ventricular ectopics?

Ventricular ectopics are ectopic (abnormal) heartbeats. Almost all of us will experience ventricular ectopic beats (also known as premature ventricular contractions or PVCs) at some point in our lives. As the name implies, these are extra heartbeats originating in the heart’s bottom chambers (the ventricles). A normal heartbeat originates from the top of the heart (the atria). Ventricular ectopic heartbeats occur prematurely and cause the heart to beat differently for that beat

What symptoms may I experience?

Many patients have no symptoms. Others may experience a sensation of fluttering or butterflies in the chest. Some people feel like their heart is stopping or skipping a beat, which you might find understandably worrying. This sensation occurs because the heartbeat cycle resets after an ectopic beat preceded by a short pause. It may then feel as if your heart momentarily stops.

Other common symptoms are dizziness, a ‘thump’ in the chest, or shortness of breath. You may experience symptoms at night or when resting. Your heart rate is lower while you rest or sleep, allowing ectopic beats more time to occur.

Many patients will experience symptoms sporadically or with no particular trigger. Sometimes patients will experience symptoms intermittently, with weeks or months between episodes.

If you experience any of these symptoms, we recommend arranging a heart screening to check your heart’s health. Watch our video to discover the top treatment options for irregular heart beats.

Are they dangerous?

Ventricular ectopics are almost always benign if you have a structurally normal heart. They don’t usually require any treatment unless they are causing symptoms. If you have evidence of structural heart disease, ventricular ectopics can be a marker of increased risk. Experiencing ventricular ectopics makes you more likely to develop other heart rhythm problems.

For this reason, if you experience ventricular ectopics, we must rule out underlying structural heart disease.

Book an appointment to see a heart specialist.

Common causes of ectopic beats

Some patients notice an immediate improvement in their symptoms after eliminating common triggers.

Common triggers include:

  • Coffee and energy drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Tiredness
  • Disturbed sleep

Hormonal changes such as those seen during pregnancy or menopause may also cause ventricular ectopics. Occasionally, viral infections of the heart lining (myocarditis) can cause ectopics.

Watch our video to learn other possible causes of your irregular heart beats.

Will I need further investigations?

If you experience symptoms of ventricular ectopics, you should book an appointment to see a cardiologist. Our cardiologist will take a detailed history and examine you. We need to establish if there is a potential underlying cause, such as heart disease caused by lifestyle factors or family history.

We perform investigations to rule out an underlying cause and to gather more information. Blood tests help us look for potential causes, such as abnormal electrolyte levels (e.g. sodium and potassium) and thyroid function. We may also recommend several cardiac tests to help reach a diagnosis.

These can include an electrocardiogram (ECG) which provides a general overview of the heart. If ectopics are frequent, we may perform an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) or cardiac MRI scan. These confirm that your heart has a normal structure and function and rule out heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy).

We may also perform a continuous ECG monitor (Holter monitor) to establish the ectopic burden. The ectopic burden is a measure of the percentage of ectopic beats when compared to all your heartbeats. There is emerging evidence that a high ectopic burden (10-30%) may affect the way your heart beats over time if left untreated. The ECG monitor can also allow us to determine if the ectopic beats originate from one site or multiple sites, which helps guide treatment.

To organize these cardiac tests, contact us today.

Will I need treatment, and what treatments are available?

If tests show that you have a structurally normal heart, you are unlikely to need treatment. The condition is probably benign.

Simple lifestyle measures will be sufficient to improve or eliminate symptoms.

Lifestyle measures include:

Medications may also suppress the ectopics and improve symptoms. Read our blog to learn more about improving heart health: How to keep your heart healthy.

 

Catheter ablation

We may use catheter ablation if the ectopic beats originate from one site. This procedure involves passing fine wires into the heart from the top of the leg in a minimally invasive/non-surgical procedure. We create a virtual 3D geometry of your heart using a computer mapping system.

Using electrical signals from within your heart, we locate the exact site of origin of the ectopic beats and deliver high-frequency energy to eliminate the abnormal beats. The procedure is minimally invasive and does not involve surgery. Most patients are discharged home on the same day.

Catheter ablation is very safe. It carries a high success rate in appropriate patients of over 85%. The risks from the procedure are small and are in the region of 1-2%. These risks include vascular complications (bleeding from the leg) and, less frequently, bleeding around the heart.

We usually treat bleeding around the heart with a small drain inserted from the front of the chest without requiring an operation. Catheter ablation rarely results in emergency surgery or the need for a permanent pacemaker.

Watch our video FAQs to learn more about catheter ablation.

Book an appointment

Ventricular ectopics are often benign, but our specialist clinic can provide private cardiac tests to ensure you have no underlying heart condition. Once we have confirmed your diagnosis, our Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Syed Ahsan, will form a personalized treatment plan. 

During your initial consultation, we will discuss your symptoms, medical history, and family history in depth to determine the most likely cause. Get in touch to find out more. 

What our patients say

After suffering from a heart condition for a number of years I was very happy to meet Dr Ahsan, from the first consultation where he believed there was a solution I have now completed the surgery and had my final consultation with him today…”

I am very grateful to have Dr Syed Ahsan as my consultant. Dr Ahsan always greets you warmly on each visit despite his busy workload. Dr Ahsan explains everything clearly and helps you to understand even the most complex medical terms…”

Have a question?

Speak to our team of specialists:

0203 303 0325
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