You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a doctor trained in diagnosing and treating heart conditions (cardiologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long. Pay attention to your symptoms in the time leading up to your appointment so that you can describe the odd sensations in your chest as specifically as possible. Does your heart feel as if it flip-flops? As if it flutters? As if it pounds? Your description will help your doctor determine next steps in making your diagnosis.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including other recent health problems you've had and the names of any prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent changes in your life.
- Write down the questions you want to be sure to ask your doctor.
For premature ventricular contractions, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for these symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- What treatment approach do you recommend, if any?
- What lifestyle changes can I make to reduce my symptoms?
- Do I need to totally eliminate alcohol and caffeine?
- Do you think stress is a factor in my symptoms?
- What stress management techniques do you think would help me most?
- Am I at risk of long-term complications?
- How will you monitor my health over time?
- Do I need to adjust the medications I'm taking for other health conditions?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions that may occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- Do your symptoms come and go? If so, when are they likely to occur?
- Are you aware of any history of heart problems in your family?
- Are you being treated for any other health conditions?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- Do you use caffeine?
- Do you smoke or use other nicotine products?
- Do you use any recreational drugs?
- How often do you feel stressed or anxious? What do you do to manage these feelings?
- What else concerns you?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, check with your family members to find out if any relatives have been diagnosed with heart problems. Although premature ventricular contractions are usually harmless, the symptoms of this condition mimic those of many other cardiac illnesses.
Knowing your family health history will help your doctor plan the right diagnostic tests and treatments, based on your individual risks. It will also help your doctor to know what triggers your symptoms.
In the time leading up to your appointment, take note of any substances or activities that seem to bring on the strange sensations in your chest.
April 26, 2014
- Manolis AS. Ventricular premature beats. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 16, 2014.
- Ventricular premature beats. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular_disorders/arrhythmias_and_conduction_disorders/ventricular_premature_beats_vpb.html. Accessed Jan. 16, 2014.
- Arrhythmia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/. Accessed Jan. 16, 2014.
- Cha YM, et al. Premature ventricular contraction-induced cardiomyopathy. Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. 2012;5:229.
- Zipes DP, et al. Cardiac Electrophysiology: From Cell to Bedside. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 16, 2014.