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Friday, April 1, 2011

Premature Ventricular Contractions

A 33-year-old man is evaluated in the office for palpitations. He reports intermittent symptoms that do not correlate with any particular activity. He is only mildly disturbed by the palpitations but wants to have his heart evaluated. His medical history is unremarkable, and he takes no medications. His physical examination and electrocardiogram also are unremarkable. A 24-hour electrocardiogram shows a normal sinus rhythm with 3004 total premature ventricular contractions in 24 hours. An echocardiogram shows a structurally normal heart. Thyroid function studies and electrolyte levels are normal.

Which of the following is the most appropriate treatment for this patient?
A Atenolol
B Flecainide
C Radiocatheter ablation
D Reassurance

Key Point
In healthy adults, premature ventricular contractions are common and are not a cause for concern.

Answer and Critique (Correct Answer = D)

n healthy adults, premature ventricular contractions at rest are common and are not a cause for concern. Even very frequent premature ventricular contractions on a 24-hour electrocardiogram are not of concern in the absence of underlying structural heart disease. This otherwise healthy patient needs reassurance. Suppression of premature ventricular contractions is indicated only in patients with severe and disabling symptoms, which may include palpitations, fatigue, and lightheadedness. In these patients, β-blockers are the safest initial choice. Antiarrhythmic agents such as flecainide are associated with more side effects and thus are a second-line option for patients who continue to have debilitating symptoms despite β-blocker therapy. Catheter ablation of premature ventricular contractions is feasible; however, because of the technical demands of the procedure and its variable success rate, it is reserved for the most refractory cases.

1. Ng GA. Treating patients with ventricular ectopic beats. Heart. 2006;92:1707-12. [PMID: 17041126]

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