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Question (and Answer) About Extra Heartbeats

Published: January 1, 2009

Q: I am an 83-year-old great-grandmother and was diagnosed with benign premature ventricular contractions 40 years ago. I’ve been asymptomatic all these years. My question is this: Have you encountered this particular arrhythmia in your study of electrophysiology?

A: Leading cardiologist Dr. Douglas Zipes replies: Premature ventricular contractions are extra heartbeats coming from the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles). In the vast majority of people, these beats are completely benign and nothing to fear. They are the commonest cause of palpitations affecting all age groups, and generally increase in number as one ages. I spend a lot of time in my practice reassuring patients that the palpitations they are feeling are nothing to worry about. Be happy you don’t sense them, because they can be a nuisance. I feel them occasionally, focus on what I am doing, and forget about them.

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