Encyclopedia Home / E / Ectopic heartbeat

Ectopic heartbeat

  • Definition

    Ectopic heartbeat is an irregularity of the heart rate and heart rhythm involving extra or skipped heartbeats.


    Alternative Names

    PVB (premature ventricular beat); Premature ventricular contraction; Premature beats; PVC (premature ventricular contraction); Extrasystole


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Ectopic heartbeats are small variations in an otherwise normal heartbeat that causes an irregular pulse. They may occur without an obvious cause and are usually harmless.

    Sometimes they are associated with chemical (electrolyte) problems in the blood, which need treatment. They can also happen with ischemia caused by a decrease in blood supply to the heart. They may also occur in patients with diseases involving heart muscle disease.

    Ectopic beats may be caused or made worse by excessive smoking, alcohol consumption, caffeine, certain medications such as stimulants, and some illicit drugs.

    Ectopic beats are rare in children who do not have congenital heart disease. Most extra heartbeats in children are premature atrial contractions (PACs), which are almost always benign.

    In adults, ectopic beats are common. Their causes should be investigated even if it turns out that no treatment is needed.