What are Ectopic Beats?

21 Sep 2009
Posted by webmaster

An Ectopic Beat or Cardiac ectopy is an irregular beat arising in the heart due to variations in the electrical conductance system of the heart. Ectopic beats are generally harmless and may occur without any particular cause. Ectopic beats are common in adults and if it happens frequently, an examination should be done, even if no further treatment is prescribed.

Ectopic Beats may either be

  • Atrial Ectopic Beats arising in the atria(the upper chambers of the heart)
  • Ventricular Ectopic Beats arising in the ventricles(the lower chambers of the heart)

Atrial Ectopic beats are usually a harmless variation in the normal beat pattern of the heart. It may occur randomly or in an occasional sequence. Mostly, it passes off undetected. Typical symptoms are the feeling that your heart skipped a beat, or that the heart is beating harder than usual. They may be triggered by a variety of stimulants like coffee, alcohol, nicotine, certain cold remedies and even stress. They may also be caused by the enlargement of the atria and some lung diseases.

Atrial Ectopic beats are detected in an ECG(Electrocardiogram). They are treated only if they cause significant discomfort to the individual. Atrial Ectopic beats cannot be prevented but their frequency can be reduced by controlling the stimulants and also by treating lung disorders causing it.

ectopic beats ecg

A ECG showing an Ectopic beat

Ventricular Ectopic Beats are also called premature ventricular contraction as they may occur just before the normal beat of the ventricle. Ventricular Ectopic beats also are common in people and they do not pose a risk unless there is a history of heart disease. The causes of Ventricular Ectopic beats are not clearly defined as they may be triggered by a stimulant or may occur randomly. Symptoms are usually the feeling of a strong, skipped beat, shortness of breath or a feeling of fullness in the neck.

Ventricular Ectopic beats are seen in an ECG. For a healthy person, occasionally occurring ventricular Ectopic beats need not be prevented. If they happen frequently, limiting of stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, smoking, stress and some medicines with known triggers are seen as sufficient.

However, when a person with a history of heart disease experiences frequent ventricular Ectopic beats, he may be having an underlying heart disorder. Extensive testing, fast diagnosis and treatment are essential in this case. Treatment may include the use of Beta-blocker drugs and Antiarrhythmic drugs in addition to treatment for associated heart problems like artery blockage.


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First of all. Nothing to worry about. Your cardiologist has excluded  structural heart disease
Ectopic beats are quite frequent in healthy individuals. 
If it is really disturbing ß-blockers can reduce frequency. 
Best Regards  

Medical Team, Heart Consult

ectopic beats, I think

I have been having a hard time sleeping lately because I have been experiencing skipped beats and "feeling" my pulse. It of course worries me, so I think that likely makes it worse. I am slightly overweight and have a decent diet. I do run and exercise though, and my resting heart rate is usually somewhere around 55 or less. When I run I get an avg heart rate of about 178, but then within 2 minutes of finishing my run my heart rate falls to about 100 bpm. I am 32 years old, and have some pretty high stress these days. Also, a few times lately I have woken in the morning, or the middle of the night to find that both of my arms are asleep. The description of ectopic beats appears to be very similar to what I am experiencing. Thanks for your help! nate


I have been having PVC's for over three years off and on usually when I was resting. It wasn't until recently that I had start in mid-morning and continue until midnight. I went to ER they gave me the diagonis stating a three run beat. I will be seeing Cardiologist next week. I have always had low blood pressure around 87/55, always require nine hours of sleep as far back as a teenager, cold compared to other people around me, shortness of breath without exertion. My biggest concern is that it's been really hard to concentrate and I can't retain information. Feels like I have cotton in my brain. I have anywhere from three to ten episodes of dizziness when I stand up especially if my knees have been bent. It just feels like I can't get the blood to my brain. Worried about Alzheimer's occuring because I'm not taking care of my brain.

What are Ectopic Beats?

I am a 47 year old male, and have had Ventricular ectopics through out my adult life. Last Saturday I went in to A-fib and went to the ER and heart was beating around 126 and blood pressure was 190/146, I am in good health and excursive, the slowed my heart and lowered my blood pressure, after a while B.P. went back to normal but was still in a-fib, they sent me home and told me to come back in the morning. I didn't sleep much and headed back to the ER and half way there my heart went back into rythem, so the doctor said to follow up with a Cardio DR, which I have an appt in a week. but since then I have noticed my heart has been doing Ventricular ectopics more often as much as once every 8 normal beats, I have been having a very hard time sleeping because of this and the fear of going into A-Fib again, are these normal? and anything to worry about. It seems to happen more in the morning and when I am worrying about it. Thank you

What are Ectopic Beats?

Hi, I am 35 yrs old otherwise healthy. I am having type II diabetes which is under control. I am anxious type of person. 2 years back when I was under stress I had palpitation and tachycardia and some sense of pounding heart beat, missed beat and sensation of sucking in the chest. ECG, Holter, ECHO done were essentially normal. Since then I am on weight reducing diet and reduced 15 kg weight over one year. Tachycardia has reduced and comes on and off with stress. But periodically (every 15-21 days) i experience this funny heart beats, appears that the heart stops for a moment and then beats faster. I become very anxious.

What are Ectopic Beats?

28 year old male. Experience chest pain/tightness and periods of breathlessness, particularly the sensation that I cannot quite get a full breath and breathe shallow until I can get lung full of air. Whilst this predominately occurs during periods of mild anxiety and exercise, it started to become more frequent during rest. Regularly experience strong ectopic beats (>2 week), sometimes in succession. Symptoms have persisted for over a year, gradually getting worse with associated fatigue and periods of being light headed. Tolerance to exercise has significantly decreased and has become unpleasant due to symptoms. Have taken stress ecg over a year ago which came back normal. Resting ecg a month, again normal. Blood tests normal. Chest x-ray normal. Have been referred to cardiologist (long waiting list though!) as breathlessness and persistent chest pains or tightness wasn't relieved with anti-flammatory medication. What do you make of this? Starting to wonder if this is all in my head! Kind regards


well, in your young age a cardiac disease seems very unlikely.
ecg/stress ecg and x-ray also showed no abnormalities. 
sometimes gastric reflux disease ( heartburn) can cause symptoms, gastroscopy might have to be considered.

irregular pulse/skipped beats

ia 69 yr old male, physically active slim non smoker non drinker. Have had a dual lead pacemaker for 9 years due to bradycardia, dx of sick sinus syndrome. Primarily only pacing via atrial lead but some ventrical pacing (200 in 24hrs per recent Holter). Pacer is active approx 30% of the time and has been so very consistently for 9 years. Catherization 9 years ago dx mild ectasia in LAD artery, mild mitral valve prolapse, mild left ventricular hytroperhy. No obstruction to flow. After 9 years of only rare episodes of irregular beats, over the last three weeks there has been a marked increase especially when at rest. Some nights are so uncomfortable that it is hard to sleep and I wake up every couple hours. Saw my cardiologist this week, ECG was very normal sinus rhythm, pacer tech verified proper settings, etc. 24 hour Holter revealed 7 PVC's, 400 PAC's and 200 ventrical pacing events. Naturally the day I wore the Holter I hardly noticed any events. I have had no tachy episodes, pulse stays in the 70 to 80 range even when irregular, partly because I have learned to stay calm and don't get an adrenaline rush. My cardiologist says he feels there is no risk and therefor does not suggest any treatment. I exercise daily (moderately vigorous) and don't think the problem is serious BUT the general discomfort and sleep loss has been cumulative these last few weeks. I have read lots of the posts here and truely understand how these events can interfere with a normal life. Some of my events seem to last waaay too long. No pain involved, just queasy feeling and repeated thumps and bumps. So what to do? Try to get used to it? Take daytime naps to compensate for sleep loss? Get a second opinion?

Re: Irregular pulse/skipped beats

Might have to consider adding ß-blockers to medication to supress irregular beats. please consult cardiologist again, if symptoms prevail.

What are Ectopic Beats?

hi my brother underwent tetralogy of fallot at age 7 hes now 40 years old he did pulmonary valve replacement surgery 2 yrs ago ..still hes suffering from ventricular ectopic beats they occur sometimes daily and sometimes every two to three days .his cardiologist put him on inderal 2 times /day but still hes experiencing these ectopic beats .whats your recommendations ?

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