Premature ventricular contractions in healthy people without high blood pressure and heart diseases don't pose any health risks. Premature ventricular contractions in patients with heart diseases (heart attacks, heart failure, diseases of the heart valves) may be associated with increased risks of developing ventricular tachycardia. Ventricular tachycardia is a sustained run of rapid ventricular contractions.
Ventricular tachycardia is lifethreatening because it occurs suddenly with no prior warning and it frequently develops into ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is a chaotic rhythm in which the ventricles quiver rapidly in a purposeless fashion. The heart with ventricular fibrillation cannot pump blood effectively to the brain and the rest of the body. If untreated, ventricular fibrillation can be fatal within minutes. An estimated 250,000 Americans die in this way each year.
Many doctors believe that premature ventricular contractions do not necessarily cause ventricular tachycardias or ventricular fibrillations. Instead, premature ventricular contractions may be merely indicators (signs) of serious heart diseases or other serious conditions such as hypokalemia, hypoxia, and ongoing heart damage from heart attacks, or a response to medications such as digoxin and aminophylline. Many premature ventricular contractions are harmless (benign) and not associated with structural heart disease.
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Archived: March 20, 2014
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