Heart Disease Expert Forum
PVCs or Afib
About This Forum:

This forum is for questions and support regarding heart issues such as: Angina, Angioplasty, Arrhythmia, Bypass Surgery, Cardiomyopathy, Coronary Artery Disease, Defibrillator, Heart Attack, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Mitral Valve Prolapse, Pacemaker, PAD, Stenosis, Stress Tests.

Font Size:
A
A
A
Background:
Blank
Blank
Blank
This expert forum is not accepting new questions. Please post your question in one of our medical support communities.
Blank Blank

PVCs or Afib


Posted by Jackie Mossburg on April 15, 1999 at 15:43:21
What is the difference betweeen PVCs and Afib?

Posted by CCF CARDIO MD - CRC on April 16, 1999 at 10:05:25

Dear Jackie,
Thank you for your question. A PVC is a premature ventricular contraction and is a normal occurrence.  Atrial fibrillation is a rapid firing of the atrium and is abnormal.
I hope you find this information useful.  Information provided in the heart forum is for general purposes only.  Only your physician can provide specific diagnoses and therapies.  Please feel free to write back with additional questions.
If you would like to make an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE or inquire online by using the Heart Center website at www.ccf.org/heartcenter.  The Heart Center website contains a directory of the cardiology staff that can be used to select the physician best suited to address your cardiac problem.
Posted by Holly on April 16, 1999 at 11:37:05
I too am curious about the difference between Afib and PVC's.  Could you describe what happens with each of them and how they are similar and how they are different.  What causes AFib?  I know we don't know exactly what causes PVC's, but do we know what causes AFib?  Thank you in advance for your help.
Holly

Posted by CCF CARDIO MD - CRC on April 16, 1999 at 17:01:21

Dear Holly,

Atrial fibrillation
Definition:
A disorder of heart rate and rhythm in which the upper heart chambers (atria) are stimulated to contract in a very rapid and/or disorganized manner; this usually also affects contraction of the ventricles.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
Arrhythmias are caused by a disruption of the normal functioning of the electrical conduction system of the heart. Normally, the atria and ventricles contract in a coordinated manner. In atrial fibrillation and flutter, the atria are stimulated to contract very quickly. This results in ineffective and uncoordinated contraction of the atria.
The impulses may be transmitted to the ventricles in an irregular fashion, or only some of the impulses may be transmitted. This causes the ventricles to beat more rapidly than normal, resulting in a rapid or irregular pulse. The ventricles may fail to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body.
Causes of atrial fibrillation and flutter include dysfunction of the sinus node (the "natural pacemaker" of the heart) and a number of heart and lung disorders including coronary artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, mitral valve disorders, pericarditis, and others. Hyperthyroidism, hypertension, and other diseases can cause arrhythmias, as can recent heavy alcohol use (binge drinking). Some cases have no identifiable cause. Atrial flutter is most often associated with a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or surgery on the heart.
Atrial fibrillation or flutter affects about 5 out of 1000 people. It can affect either sex. Atrial fibrillation is very common in the elderly, but it can occur in persons of any age.
Prevention:
Follow the health care provider's recommendations for the treatment of underlying disorders. Avoid binge drinking.
Symptoms:
     sensation of feeling heart beat (palpitations)
     pulse may feel rapid, racing, pounding, fluttering,
     pulse may feel regular or irregular
     dizziness, lightheadedness
     fainting
     confusion
     fatigue
     shortness of breath
     breathing difficulty, lying down
     sensation of tightness in the chest
Note: Symptoms may begin and/or stop suddenly.
Signs and tests:
Listening with a stethoscope (auscultation) of the heart shows a rapid or irregular rhythm. The pulse may feel rapid or irregular. The normal heart rate is 60 to 100, but in atrial fibrillation/flutter
the heart rate may be 100 to 175. Blood pressure may be normal or low.
An ECG shows atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. Continuous ambulatory cardiac monitoring--Holter monitor (24 hour test)-- may be necessary because the condition is often sporadic (sudden beginning and ending of episodes of the arrhythmia).
Tests to determine the cause may include:
     an echocardiogram
     a coronary angiography (rarely)
     an exercise treadmill ECG

Treatment:
Treatment varies depending on the cause of the atrial fibrillation or flutter. Medication may include digitalis or other medications that slow the heart beat or that slow conduction of the impulse
to the ventricles.
Electrical cardioversion may be required to convert the arrhythmia to normal (sinus) rhythm.
There is not a consensus on the best long term management  of atrial fibrillation but many doctors feel it is important to try everything, including cardioversion (shock) to try to get the heart back into regular rhythm.  The risks of staying in afib are stroke (if not on anticoagulation) and decreased heart heart function (tachycardia induced cardiomyopathy).  Not all afib can be maintained in regular rhythm and those patients must live with the afib and take chronic anticoagulation (blood thinners).

Expectations (prognosis):
The disorder is usually controllable with treatment. Atrial fibrillation may become a chronic condition. Atrial flutter is usually a short-term problem.
Complications:
     incomplete emptying of the atria which can reduce the amount of blood the heart can pump
     emboli to the brain (stroke) or elsewhere--rare

Calling your health care provider:
Call your health care provider if symptoms indicate atrial
fibrillation or flutter may be present.
Q: Are there other safe drugs I could take at home to avoid cardioversion?
A: There are many different drugs that are used in the attempt to keep the heart in sinus rhythm (SR) but as with any medication they all have various side-effects.  You doctor can work with you on finding the best drug for your case.
Q:  What are the side effects to Toprol.
A: Toprol XL is a long acting version of metoprolol.  This drug is a beta-blocker.  Potential side-effects of beta-blockers include fatigue, problems with diabetic control, and impotence.
Q:  It seems that the better physical shape I stay in the less I have a problem with A.F. Could exercise have an impact?
A: There is no known effect of exercise on atrial fibrillation (AF).
Q: Is a pacemaker an alternative?
A: In some people who are unable to be controlled with drugs the electrical connection between the atria (upper heart chambers) and ventricles (lower heart chambers) is electrically severed and a pacemaker is placed to control the ventricles.  The atria remain in fibrillation but the side effect of the rapid heart rate is eliminated.  Chronic anticoagulation is required, as there is a risk of blood clots forming in the atria.
Q:  I have an uncle that was diagnosed with IHSS. Are IHSS and Mitral valve prolapse related problems?
A: No.

The links below are good sources of information about atrial fibrillation.
http://www.med-edu.com/patient/arrhythmia/atrial-fib.html
http://www.americanheart.org/Heart_and_Stroke_A_Z_Guide/afib.html
http://www.merck.com/!!vDXoe16kTvDXpz08Of/pubs/mmanual_home/chapt16.htm

PVC's (premature ventricular contractions) are "extra" heartbeats occurring out of sync with the normal regular rhythm of the heart.  PVC's may cause no symptoms at all or may be felt as a "irregular" heartbeat or as the sensation of a "hard heartbeat".  PVC's  are common findings in persons with otherwise normal hearts, in which case the prognosis is excellent and there is no decrease at all in life expectancy.  On the other hand, they may indicate that there is an underlying abnormality of the heart muscle (from any number of reasons).  If there is an abnormality, then the prognosis and treatment depends upon the specific problem of the heart.  The usual evaluation of PVC's is a history, physical examination, and electrocardiogram (ECG).  Also your doctor may wish to check an ultrasound of the heart.  If all those tests are normal, then you would fall into the category of people who have PVC's but otherwise no underlying heart problem. In that case, treatment depends on how much the PVC's bother you. If they are essentially asymptomatic, then no treatment is required. If they bother you, then a medication called a "beta-blocker" may reduce the frequency of the PVC's. PVC's can't be "cured", but the medication can decrease their frequency. The potential side effects of beta-blockers are tiredness, impotence in men and breathing difficulties in individuals with underlying lung disease.  Be sure to discuss these issues with your doctor and under no circumstance should you take medications for the heart without the supervision of a doctor.
Below are some web sites with additional information about PVCs.
http://www.amhrt.org/Heart_and_Stroke_A_Z_Guide/prevent.html
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/nhlbi/cardio/other/gp/arrhyth.htm
http://www.MedicineNet.com/Forum.asp?li=USA&ag=Y&ArticleKey=1946
http://www.onelist.com/

I hope you find this information useful.  Information provided in the heart forum is for general purposes only.  Only your physician can provide specific diagnoses and therapies.  Please feel free to write back with additional questions.
If you would like to make an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE or inquire online by using the Heart Center website at www.ccf.org/heartcenter.  The Heart Center website contains a directory of the cardiology staff that can be used to select the physician best suited to address your cardiac problem.



Related Discussions
  • lone AFib
    I am a 62 year old female who was diagnosed with lone...[more]
  • Re: What now?
    Posted By Marie Rios on July 27, 1999 at 09:25:09 Duri...[more]
  • Re: PVC's
    Posted By CCF CARDIO MD - CRC on April 08, 1999 at 14:43...[more]
  • Atrial Fib
    Posted by Joe on June 20, 1999 at 11:16:17 Hello, I a...[more]
  • AFib (10 replies):
    I have been diagnosed with AFib. I am on Cardizem and L...[more]
Continue discussion Blank
Blank
Request an Appointment
MedHelp Health Answers
Blank
Weight Tracker
Weight Tracker
Start Tracking Now
RSS Expert Activity
469720_tn?1388149949
Blank
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm-treatable... Blank
Oct 04 by Lee Kirksey, MDBlank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
The 3 Essentials to Ending Emotiona...
Sep 18 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
Control Emotional Eating with this ...
Sep 04 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank