Cardiac Ectopic Beats

What are cardiac ectopic beats?

Cardiac ectopy, also known as an ectopic beat, refers to small changes that occur to a heartbeat that is otherwise normal. This results in a premature heartbeat often followed by a pause before the next heartbeat, which feels like a missed heartbeat. Fortunately, while disconcerting they are mostly harmless. Ectopic beats are the most common cause of patients experiencing heart palpitations. There are two types of early heartbeat. Premature atrial contraction (PAC) originate in the upper chambers of the heart while premature ventricular contraction (PVC) originate in the lower chambers. In most patients ectopic heart beats are usually a benign phenomena and are not associated with any significant cardiac disease. However, in every individual careful assessment is required.


What are the symptoms of cardiac ectopic beats?

If you have an ectopic beat you'll feel a slight 'hiccup' in the rhythm of your heart, which in the majority of cases will return to normal. They usually occur during times of anxiety, stress or exercise, and can also be triggered by smoking, drinking alcohol, caffeine intake and in some cases eating certain foods. You may also feel faint or experience dizziness, or become aware of your heartbeat.



What assessment do I need if I have cardiac ectopic beats?

Most ectopic heart beats are harmless. However, if the condition persists then your cardiologist will undertake some tests to determine if there is an underlying condition that may require treating. You may be asked to undertake an exercise test or undergo a series of scans, such as an ECG, echocardiogram or MRI. A period of cardiac monitoring may be required to confirm the diagnosis.


What are the treatments for cardiac ectopic beats?

In most cases ectopic heart beats do not require treatment. Lifestyle modification such as reducing caffeine and alcohol may be required in some patients. Occasionally, medication may be required to control symptoms. Less commonly, catheter ablation may be needed to help control symptoms or if there is concern that the ectopic burden is affecting contraction of the heart muscle. Your cardiologist will recommend the most appropriate course of action for you.

  • Atrial Fibrillation (AF) Catheter Ablation

    This is an invasive procedure to block the electrical signals causing atrial fibrillation and to restore sinus rhythm. [READ MORE]

  • Atrial Flutter Ablation

    This procedure blocks the electrical signals that cause a fluttering heartbeat and restores sinus rhythm. [READ MORE]

  • Atrioventricular (AV) Node Ablation

    This procedure prevents faulty electrical impulses being sent within the heart. [READ MORE]

  • Bioresorbable Scaffolds (Stents)

    This is a biodegradable device that can be used like a coronary stent. [READ MORE]

  • Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing (CPET)

    This test shows how the heart, lungs and muscles react when exercise is undertaken. [READ MORE]

  • Coronary Angiogram

    This minimally invasive procedure is used to visualise the coronary arteries and assess the severity of any blockage. [READ MORE]

  • Coronary Angioplasty

    This minimally invasive procedure is used to treat narrowing of the coronary arteries. [READ MORE]

  • CTCA Scan & Calcium Score

    This scan is used to ascertain the risk of a heart attack or stroke within the next 5-10 years. [READ MORE]

  • Echocardiogram (TTE)

    An ‘echo’ is an ultrasound scan of the heart to assess structure and function. [READ MORE]

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) Test

    An ECG is a simple test that looks at the electrical activity of the heart. [READ MORE]

  • Electrophysiology (EP) Study

    This study analyses the heart's electrical activity and is used to diagnose the cause of abnormal heartbeats. [READ MORE]

  • Event Recording, 1-6 weeks

    Monitors are used to provide a prolonged record of a heart’s operation and symptoms. [READ MORE]

  • Exercise Tolerance Testing

    This test measures the effects on the heart rhythm and blood pressure when exercise is undertaken. [READ MORE]

  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

    This is an artificial device implanted in the chest to detect and correct a potentially dangerous heartbeat. [READ MORE]

  • Implantable Loop Recorder (ILR)

    This device records a heart’s rhythm continuously for up to two years. [READ MORE]

  • MRI Scan / CMR Scan

    These scans enable cardiologists to view detailed images of the heart’s anatomy. [READ MORE]

  • Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) Ablation

    This procedure helps block the electrical signals that cause an abnormal or life-threatening rapid heartbeat. [READ MORE]



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