Ventricular Fibrillation

1 What is Ventricular Fibrillation?

Ventricular fibrillation is a problem with rhythm of heart. It appears as fast and rapid beats with erratic electrical impulses. This causes the chambers of heart to quiver uselessly instead of pumping.

Sometimes triggered by heart attack, ventricular fibrillation causes blood pressure to drop which completely decreases blood supply to vital organs. It is an emergency condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Emergency treatment includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Treatment includes medications and implantable devices.

2 Symptoms

Loss of consciousness is the most common symptom of ventricular fibrillation.

Early signs and symptoms include: chest pain, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath.

3 Causes

The cause of ventricular fibrillation is unknown.

There is a problem in electrical impulse travelling through heart after first heart attack or scaring of heart tissue. It begins as rapid heartbeat which causes abnormal electrical impulses.

Most ventricular can last for 30 seconds and may not cause any severe problems. If it lasts for more than 30 seconds, it may lead to palpitations, dizziness and fainting.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Ventricular fibrillation is diagnosed in an emerging condition using heart monitoring. A heart monitor which reads the electrical impulses shows heart beating. Pulse checking- in case of ventricular fibrillation, there will be no pulse.

The following tests may help to find the cause of ventricular fibrillation:

  • ECG - this records electrical activity of heart on a paper.
  • Blood tests - the blood is testes for the presence of heart enzymes.
  • Chest X-ray - an X-ray image of chest helps to check size and shape of heart and blood vessels.
  • Echocardiogram - this is ultrasound of heart.
  • Coronary catheterization - this is to determine any blockage or narrowing in coronary arteries.
  • Cardiac computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging - these tests can help to diagnose heart problems.

5 Treatment

Emergency treatment for ventricular fibrillation is aimed at restoring blood flow through the body as quickly as possible.

The following emergency treatment are available:

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) - three steps are to be followed. opening of airways, giving breaths mouth to mouth and mouth to nose and mouth, cardiac compressions.
  • Defibrillation - is delivery of an electrical shock to the heart. Treatments to prevent future episodes of ventricular fibrillation.
  • Medications - usage of anti-arrhythmic medications such as beta1 blockers for long-term treatment.
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) - after the condition stabilizes, the doctor is likely to recommend implantation of ICD, a battery powered unit that is implanted near left corner bone which detects any changes in rhythm and sends signal accordingly successfully depolarizing all cardiomyocytes.
  • Coronary angioplasty and stent placement - this procedure is for the treatment of severe coronary artery disease. Doctor inserts a catheter to a blocked artery and opens it with a balloon and stent is placed to keep it open.
  • Coronary bypass surgery - it involves sewing veins or arteries beyond a blocked or narrowed coronary artery restoring blood flow.

6 Risks and Complications

The risk factors for ventricular fibrillation include: 

  • previous episode,
  • previous heart attack,
  • congenital heart diseases,
  • cardiomyopathies,
  • injuries that damage the heart muscles,
  • electrocution,
  • drug abuse,
  • electrolyte abnormalities.

Complications are heart failure and if not treated may eventually lead to death.

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