Premature Atrial Contractions

Premature atrial contractions (PACs) are extra heartbeats that begin in one of your heart's two upper chambers (atria). These extra beats disrupt your regular heart rhythm. They are a type of heart arrhythmia. If you have occasional premature atrial contractions, but you're otherwise healthy, there's probably no reason for concern, and no need for treatment. If you have frequent premature atrial contractions or underlying heart disease, you might need treatment.

Causes of Premature Atrial Contractions

Although the exact cause is unknown, certain traits, conditions, or habits may raise your risk for this condition. These are known as risk factors and include:

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • High blood pressure
  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse
  • Excessive amounts of alcohol consumption over the years.
  • Excessive amount of caffeine or other stimulants.
  • Little to no physical activity
  • Extreme levels of anxiety

Other conditions that contribute to the development of PACs

Symptoms of Premature Atrial Contractions

Premature atrial contractions often cause few or no symptoms. But you might feel an odd sensation in your chest, such as:

  • Fluttering
  • Skipped heartbeats or missed heartbeats
  • Increased awareness of your heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations

Diagnosis of Premature Atrial Contractions

Typically, your doctor will perform the following:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Premature Atrial Contractions

For most people, PACs with an otherwise normal heart won't need treatment. However, if you have frequent PACs, your doctor might recommend treatment. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes


  • Antiarrhythmic medications will help control your heart’s rhythm.
  • Anticoagulants “blood-thinners” will help treat, prevent and reduce blood clots.
  • Beta blockers will help reduce your blood pressure.
  • Calcium channel blockers will help relax blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart while also reducing the heart's workload.

Medical and surgical procedures