A ventricular premature beat (VPB) is an abnormal, extra heartbeat. Almost everyone has VPBs at some time. They are more likely as you get older.
VPBs are a medical problem only if your child has heart disease. Frequent VPBs and a weak heart muscle increase the risk of sudden death.
VPBs may also be called premature ventricular contractions or ventricular premature contractions.
An electrical signal in your child’s heart starts each heartbeat, causing the heart muscle to squeeze (contract). Normally, this signal starts in the upper right chamber of the heart (the right atrium) at a place called the sinus node. The signal then travels to the upper left atrium and to the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). A VPB starts from one of the lower heart chambers instead of the right atrium. This may happen if your child:
Often the cause of VPBs is not known. VPBs can happen even though your child has a healthy heart.
Your child may not be aware of VPBs. Or he may notice "flip-flops" or skipped beats with an odd feeling in the chest. They may happen rarely or often.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child.
Your child will have an ECG (also called an EKG or electrocardiogram), which measures and records the heartbeat. Your child may have an ECG while resting or while he exercises on a treadmill. Your child may also be asked to wear a small portable ECG monitor for a few days or longer.
To help diagnose the cause of VPBs, your child may have an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves (ultrasound) to see how well the heart is pumping.
If your child has a healthy heart, VPBs are generally not dangerous and don’t need treatment. Making changes in lifestyle or diet, drinking less caffeine, and knowing that the VPBs are not dangerous may help reduce anxiety and decrease the number of VPBs.
If VPBs cause severe symptoms, treatment may include:
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.