Ectopic heartbeat

A contraction of the heart muscle that is out of normal timing. An ectopic heartbeat occurs shortly after a normal beat and is followed by a longer than usual interval before the next one. Ectopic beats can occur in a heart that is otherwise normal and may cause no symptoms. Multiple ectopic beats can cause palpitations. After a myocardial infarction, multiple ectopic beats are a sign of damaged heart muscle. Multiple ectopic beats may lead to ventricular fibrillation, a rapid uncoordinated heartbeat that may be fatal. Multiple ectopic beats that are causing palpitations, or that occur after a myocardial infarction, are often treated with an antiarrhythmic drug. (See also arrhythmia, cardiac.)


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