You’re just sitting there relaxed before the TV, computer or reading a magazine when suddenly you get a run of PVC’s.
Can a healthy heart have premature ventricular contractions at rest?
You know what these are: that unexpected extra heartbeat, or perhaps the sensation feels like a skipped beat — a scary pause in between the beats. This may even happen for several beats in a row.
“Just about everyone has PVC’s sometimes – even hundreds of PVC’s per day can be normal,” says Daniel P. Morin, MD, FACC, Director of Electrophysiology Research and Director of Cardiovascular Research for the Ochsner Health System.
“PVC’s can range from harmless to dangerous,” continues Dr. Morin. “If there are few PVC’s, even if they’re symptomatic, most often they’re just a nuisance.”
The symptoms would be one or more of the following.
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath at rest
“If there are more – often, many thousand per day – there can be consequences, including causing weakening of the heart’s squeezing function over time, which may be reversible with appropriate treatment,” says Dr. Morin.
When the heart’s squeezing function is weakened, this is called heart failure. The heart fails to squeeze or contract optimally.
The result is reduced blood flow throughout the body. Over time this can impair kidney and liver function because these organs are highly vascular and are sensitive to reductions in blood flow.
People with chronic heart failure may not even know they have renal insufficiency or cardiac liver disease unless they undergo testing, such the creatinine test for kidney function.
There are various causes of chronic heart failure, and untreated premature ventricular contractions is one of them.
When the PVC’s are appropriately treated (medications or ablation therapy), then the heart hopefully can recover, regain its normal shape, and thus eventually regain an optimal squeezing with each beat.
Dr. Morin’s clinical interests are in device therapy for cardiac dysfunction (including cardiac resynchronization therapy) and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias with medical therapy and/or catheter ablation.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.