Ectopic Beats

The heart is comprised of 4 chambers; 2 atria, which sit on 2 ventricles. An electrical “timekeeper”, called the sino-atrial node, is located at the top of the right atrium. This is the heart’s natural pacemaker, sending out regular electrical impulses that travel through pathways which run down the atria, through the ‘junction box’ of the heart (known as the AV node) and into the ventricles, allowing the heart to contract and relax regularly and pump blood around the body.


Normal ‘sinus’ rhythm (see text for details)

Ectopic beats occur randomly, often for no underlying reason, disturbing the normal rhythm of the heart. Everyone gets ectopic beats (some people only a few a day and others get 1000s). There are usually no associated symptoms and often, the ectopic beat is discovered as an incidental finding during investigations for other reasons. Although investigations may be carried out to exclude treatable problems, usually there is nothing further that needs to be done other than reassure the person that these are a normal finding in people. When they are causing symptoms it is often best to ignore these once they have been investigated. In some cases with bad symptoms medication may be needed, and very rarely catheter ablation  may even be warranted.