Atrial Extrasystole: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Have you ever felt your heart miss a beat?

There’s a good chance that what you noticed was a heartbeat that happened earlier than it usually does.

When that happens, and then continues with a fluttery or skipped beat, it could be a premature atrial contraction (PAC). You could also hear it, called atrial ectopic beats or atrial premature beats.

They are common, and most of the time, they do not need treatment.

Why is this condition?

The heart has four chambers. The top two are the atria. If your heart’s electrical system triggers the early or extra beat in the atria, the result is premature atrial contraction.

A similar condition, premature ventricular contraction (PVC), begins in the lower chambers, called “ventricles,” of the heart.

Every time your heart goes out of its normal rhythm, doctors call it an “arrhythmia.” There are many different types, including PACs.

Atrial premature beats are caused by premature and abnormal depolarization of the atria, responsible for an anticipated QRS complex. Generally, the shape of this complex is identical to that of the sinus beats.

Diagnosis is made by electrocardiography, but you can run into problems due to the lack of recognition of premature P waves (and even more, since they may not give a ventricular response) or the deformation of the QRS complex by a branch block that simulates blocking.

As in all cases, premature atrial beats are usually followed by a pause. Atrial premature beats, isolated in most cases, can trigger episodes of supraventricular tachycardia of variable duration.

Symptoms of atrial extrasystole

When a PAC is presented, you may notice:

  • A flutter in your chest.
  • Fatigue after exercise
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain.
  • Dizziness or vertigo

Causes of atrial extrasystole

Doctors don’t always know the cause. But these things can make PACs more likely:

  • The pregnancy.
  • High blood pressure, heart disease, or hyperthyroidism .
  • Stress or fatigue
  • Caffeine.
  • Alcohol.
  • Of smoking.
  • Cold or hay fever medicine.
  • Asthma medicine.
  • Dehydration.

Premature atrial contractions usually do not have a clear cause or health risks. In most cases, premature atrial contractions are not a sign of heart disease and only occur naturally.

But some people who have CAP turn out to have related heart conditions, such as:

  • Cardiomyopathy (a weakened heart muscle).
  • Coronary heart disease (fatty deposits in the blood vessels).

If your doctor discovers that you have a condition related to premature heartbeat, they will work together to come up with a treatment plan.

Diagnosis of atrial extrasystole

When you have single or occasional CAP, there is usually no need to seek medical treatment.

But if you have CAP frequently or if they really bother you, see a doctor. Based on your symptoms, your doctor may order one or more of these tests:

  • Electrocardiogram, or EKG: This test will show if you have arrhythmia.
  • Holter Monitor – This is a portable version of an EKG that you will use for 1 to 2 days. It tracks all the electrical activity in your heart for your doctor to study.
  • Exercise Stress Test – This test links you to an EKG while doing physical activity such as running or walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.
  • Echocardiogram : This test uses sound waves to measure how well your heart valves and muscles are working.

Treatment of atrial extrasystole

If your test results show that you have other heart-related problems, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan. However, most of the time, PACs do not need treatment.

In cases with poor functional tolerance, the nerve sedatives of beta-blockers may be helpful. Antiarrhythmic drugs are rarely necessary, but can be prescribed if there are episodes of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.

The disorders found in athletes (in theory manifestations of hypervagotonia) can be individualized. In practice, therapeutic abstention is the rule, especially when the premature beats are latent.

In cases with poor functional tolerance, the nerve sedatives of beta-blockers may be helpful.

Antiarrhythmic drugs are rarely necessary, but can be prescribed if there are episodes of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. The disorders found in athletes (in theory manifestations of hypervagotonia) can be individualized.

In practice, therapeutic abstention is the rule, especially when the premature beats are latent. In cases with poor functional tolerance, the nerve sedatives of beta-blockers may be helpful.

Antiarrhythmic drugs are rarely necessary, but can be prescribed if there are episodes of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.

If you have severe symptoms or find them bothersome, treatments may include:

Changes in lifestyle

Reduce stress, quit smoking, cut down on caffeine, and treat other health problems like sleep apnea and high blood pressure.