Extrasystoles are heartbeats that occur in addition to the normal heart rhythm. Often you feel them in the form of “heart stumbling” or “heart misfires”. They are usually safe and do not need to be treated. Sometimes they are warning signs of serious heart disease. Read all about extrasystoles here.
Extrasystoles are extra strokes to the normal heart rhythm. Only when they occur heaped, it is called a cardiac arrhythmia. They occasionally occur to all people. Normally, an electrical impulse is generated in the so-called sinus node in the atrium, which is conducted via another node to the left and right ventricles. Subsequently, the muscle cells of the heart contract.
In the case of an extrasystole, an additional electrical impulse is created in the ventricular premature beats or in areas above it (supraventricular extrasystole). Sometimes the heart needs a rest after an extrasystole. One speaks of a “compensatory break”. Some of them feel this as a “heart misfire”.
Extrasystoles occur in all people, but especially often in adolescents. They are mostly harmless. If additional heartbeats are often formed, this is called a ventricular extrasystole. It can be uncomfortable and in some cases dangerous.
Extrasystoles feel most people not or rarely as a short “heart stumbling”. Sometimes, however, the extrasystoles are so common that dizziness and anxiety can be triggered.
Extrasystoles: causes and risk factors
In healthy people, extrasystoles are usually associated with severe emotions, fatigue, or after consumption of stimulants (such as coffee, alcohol): over-stimulation of the nervous system stimulates the heart more and makes additional heartbeats more frequent. Other possible triggers include potassium deficiency, medications or thyroid dysfunction. Very rarely, an extrasystole is also innate.
In heart disease, extrasystoles occur much more often because many of the muscle cells of the heart are damaged. There are here supraventricular extrasystoles and ventricular extrasystoles. Several extrasystoles in a row are an expression of cardiac damage and may be harbingers of dangerous arrhythmias.
Extrasystoles: diagnosis and examination
In order to recognize accumulated extrasystoles, a so-called long-term electrocardiogram (long-term ECG) usually has to be prepared. For an ECG, the cardiac currents are measured and recorded via electrodes on the chest. A long-term ECG measures the cardiac currents for at least 24 hours. If more than 10,000 extrasystoles occur during the 24 hours, this is called an extrasystole requiring therapy.
Extrasystoles do not really need therapy. If they occur unpleasantly often, one should first dispense with stimulants, as they can promote the development of extrasystoles. If the extrasystoles occur frequently because the heart is damaged, the disease of the heart must be treated.
An extrasystole can also be treated with medication. Beta-blockers, for example, stabilize the heart rhythm and can reduce the number of extrasystoles.
In the case of a very unpleasant or congenital ventricular extrasystole, it is possible to obliterate certain structures in the heart by means of so-called catheter ablation. During ablation, a wire is advanced across the inguinal vein to the heart. Since a ventricular extrasystole often originates from a specific area in the heart, this site can be obliterated by heat. The chance of recovery in this procedure is 90 percent.
Extrasystoles: disease course and diagnosis
Extrasystoles are usually harmless. Increased extrasystoles in people with heart disease, however, indicate severe damage to the heart.
Dangerous are the additional heartbeats, if they occur at certain times of electrical signal transmission in the heart. Then they can trigger ventricular fibrillation. Several extrasystoles one behind the other are expressions of cardiac damage and can be harbingers of dangerous arrhythmias.