An electrocardiogram (ECG) can detect the extra beats and identify the pattern and source.
Depending on the frequency and timing of your PVCs, different types of ECG testing options are available.
- Standard ECG. Sensors (electrodes) are attached to your chest and limbs to create a graphical record of the electrical signals traveling through your heart. This brief test usually is done in a clinic or hospital setting.
If you have infrequent PVCs, they may not be detected during the brief time a standard ECG is being done. In such cases, you may need to use a portable monitoring device for 24 hours or more to capture any abnormal rhythms. Common types of portable ECGs include:
- Holter monitor. You carry this device in your pocket or in a pouch on a belt or shoulder strap. It automatically records your heart's activity for 24 or 48 hours, which provides your doctor with an extended look at your heart rhythms.
- Event recorder. This device can be carried in your pocket or worn on a belt or shoulder strap for home monitoring of your heart's activity. When you feel symptoms, you push a button, and a brief ECG strip recording is made. The recorder, which can be used for several weeks, allows your doctor to see your heart rhythm at the time of your symptoms.
- Exercise stress ECG. This test uses electrocardiography to record your heart's electrical activity while you walk on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bike. It can help determine whether exercise triggers your PVCs.
For most people, PVCs with an otherwise normal heart won't need treatment. However, if you have frequent PVCs, your doctor might recommend treatment.
In some cases, if you have heart disease that could lead to more-serious rhythm problems, you might need the following:
- Lifestyle changes. Eliminating common PVC triggers — such as caffeine or tobacco — can decrease the frequency and severity of your symptoms.
Medications. Beta blockers — which are often used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease — can suppress premature contractions.
Other medications, such as calcium channel blockers, or anti-arrhythmic drugs, such as amiodarone (Pacerone) or flecainide (Tambocor), also might be used if you have ventricular tachycardia or frequent PVCs that interfere with your heart's function.
- Radiofrequency catheter ablation. For PVCs that don't respond to lifestyle changes or medications, your doctor might recommend ablation therapy. This procedure uses radiofrequency energy to destroy the area of heart tissue that is causing your irregular contractions.
Lifestyle and home remedies
The following self-care strategies can help control PVCs and improve your heart health:
- Track your triggers. If you have frequent symptoms, you might want to take note of your symptoms and your activities. This can help identify substances or actions that may trigger premature ventricular contractions.
- Modify your substance use. Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs are known triggers of premature ventricular contractions. Reducing or avoiding these substances can reduce your symptoms.
- Manage stress. Anxiety can trigger abnormal heartbeats. If you think anxiety is contributing to your condition, try stress-reduction techniques, such as biofeedback, meditation or exercise, or talk to your doctor about anti-anxiety medications.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor. Or you might be referred to a doctor trained in diagnosing and treating heart conditions (cardiologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
Make a list of:
- Your symptoms, how they feel and when they began
- Key medical information, including other recent health problems you've had and family history of heart disease
- All medications, vitamins and other supplements you take and dosages
- Questions to ask your doctor
Take a friend or relative with you, if possible, to help you remember the information you receive.
For premature ventricular contractions, questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms?
- What 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 eliminate alcohol and caffeine?
- 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?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including:
- Do your symptoms come and go? If so, when are they likely to occur?
- Do you drink alcohol? If so, how much?
- Do you use caffeine? If so, how much?
- Do you smoke or use other nicotine products?
- Do you use recreational drugs?
- How often do you feel stressed or anxious? What do you do to manage these feelings?