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A premature heartbeat (contraction) is a type of arrhythmia. It is a beat that occurs earlier than expected, briefly interrupting the normal heart rhythm.
A premature heartbeat is often described as a "thump" in the chest. However, this “missed beat” sensation does not reflect the premature contraction, but rather the forceful beat that follows the pause after the premature beat. The heart fills with blood during this pause, making the next beat more forceful.
Premature beats that occur in the atria (upper chambers of the heart) are called premature atrial contractions, or PACs. Premature beats that occur in the ventricles (lower chambers) are called premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs.
Potential causes of benign (not dangerous to health) premature contractions may be linked to:
The Electrophysiology Section at Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital consists of the largest group of electrophysiologists in central Ohio as well as more than 100 nursing staff members dedicated to the care of patients with heart rhythm problems. The Ross Heart Hospital is home to one of the largest electrophysiology programs in the country utilizing physician experience coupled with advanced mapping and ablation technology to manage the wide spectrum of heart rhythm problems.
Usually, single premature beats require no treatment. However, when they are frequent or annoying, your doctor may recommend a test to search for their cause.
Treatment depends on the type and seriousness of your arrhythmia. In some patients, no therapy is required. For patients with severe symptoms, therapies for the premature beats include: