How are Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) Diagnosed?
Unless the condition worsens, treatment may not be necessary for individuals with premature ventricular contractions. But when treatment becomes necessary, an examination by a cardiologist is recommended.
Medication treatment for other heart-related conditions may also eliminate the symptoms of PVC.
When following up with a physician for symptoms of symptoms of PVC, an initial interview will be conducted to discuss your medical history and other important health information. During a physical exam, your doctor will check your heartbeat, check for signs of heart rhythm irregularities, and other vital signs.
When following up with a physician for an initial interview will be conducted to discuss your medical history and other important health information. A physical exam follows this interview to hear your heartbeat, check for signs of heart rhythm irregularities, and check your other vital signs.
An electrocardiogram (EKG) will be ordered to measure your heart rate, check for electrical impulse deviations, and detect arrhythmia—fluctuations in a heartbeat. Some cardiologists require a 24-hour Holter, or longer-term skin patch, monitor to measure the heart’s electrical impulses; this device can also detect PVCs.
Other diagnostic tests may be used to detect PVCs. These tests can confirm the source of the irregularity. Additional tests used to diagnose premature ventricular contractions include:
- Blood tests - These blood tests measure the amount of potassium, magnesium, and thyroid hormone levels. If the levels are compromised, PVCs are possible.
- Cardiac stress test - Your heart rate and blood flow are measured while exercising and at rest
- Cardiac MRIs or CT scans - These imaging tests produce clear and detailed pictures of the heart, surrounding structures, and the blood flow. They can highlight structural damage that could be causing PVCs.
- Angiograms - An angiogram is a scan that uses dye to highlight how well blood flows through arteries and veins. This test can detect blood vessel blockage, structural heart damage, or other heart diseases which could cause PVCs.
- Electrophysiology study - This test uses catheters and wire electrodes to measure the electrical activity of the heart, which can diagnose arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeats)
How are Premature Ventricular Contractions Treated?
If the symptoms brought on by premature ventricular contractions become too frequent or bothersome, treatment may be necessary to prevent the PVCs from affecting the heart’s muscles. Some PVC treatments could include:
- Medications - Beta blockers or calcium channel blockers, normally used to treat high blood pressure, are sometimes used to control PVCs. Other medications called antiarrhythmics are specifically designed to control irregular heart rhythms if not effective or well tolerated.
- Catheter ablation -This minimally invasive procedure targets the heart area. It causes irregular heartbeats by using hot or cold energy to treat the heart tissue where the arrhythmia is taking place.
PVCs frequently occur at night or while a person is at rest. The sinus node, the heart’s natural pacemaker, slows down when a person rests. Some people may experience chest pain or dizziness in addition to heart palpitations.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience frequent PVCs and your heart palpitations become bothersome or painful. They can discern whether the heart fluttering is due to PVCs or another heart or health condition. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), anemia (low red blood cell count), or a heart infection could be the reason for the sensation in your heart.
If you experience PVCs occasionally or when you’re stressed, medication might not be needed. Lifestyle changes such as limiting caffeine, not smoking, getting good sleep, limiting alcohol, and managing your anxiety and stress by talking to someone, increasing exercise, or practicing yoga can help reduce PVCs related to anxiety.
Most people who experience PVCs are not in danger. Rarely are PVCs something to be concerned about, particularly if there is an underlying history of heart disease. If PVCs increase in occurrence or are bothersome or painful, then discussing them with your doctor is recommended.
PVCs that occur during exercise or while taking a stress test are normal and usually don't indicate a problem with your heart.
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