Ventricular Fibrillation

What is Ventricular Fibrillation?

Considered the most serious of all the cardiac rhythm disorders, ventricular fibrillation causes the lower chambers of the heart to quiver. As a result, the heart is unable to pump any blood, and this leads to fainting or life threatening cardiac arrest.

This condition is most commonly caused by a heart attack, although it can also occur when the heart doesn’t receive enough oxygen for any reason.

Many individuals who develop ventricular fibrillation do not have a history of heart disease, but they may have risk factors of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking.

What are the Symptoms of Ventricular Fibrillation?

Fainting and loss of consciousness are commonly associated with ventricular fibrillation.

However, symptoms that occur an hour or less prior to fainting can include dizziness, chest pain, a rapid and fluttering heartbeat, shortness of breath, and nausea.

Ventricular Fibrillation Causes

The most common cause of ventricular fibrillation, a cardiac arrhythmia, is heart disease. Ischemic heart disease, or coronary heart disease, is the main underlying heart disease in most cases of ventricular fibrillation.

However, other types of heart disease, such as hypertensive heart disease and rheumatic heart disease can also be causes, as well as cerebrovasuclar diseases. Various other hearth pathologies, such as cardiomyopathy and myocarditis, can also be an underlying cause of the ventricular fibrillation.

Near drowning or major trauma can sometimes lead to the condition. The imbalances that occur when the electrolytes of the body are not at the right levels, and overdoses of cardiotoxic drugs can also cause ventricular fibrillation.

Finally, there is the subgroup of this cardiac arrhythmia which is known as idiopathic ventricular fibrillation, and it is classified as such when there is no apparent underlying heart pathology that can be linked to causing it.

How is Ventricular Fibrillation Treated?

Unless immediate medical care is provided, ventricular fibrillation could cause death within minutes.

If someone you know experiences this condition, call for emergency medical assistance immediately. While you wait for help to arrive, put the patient’s neck and head in line with the body in order to make breathing easier. You can also perform CPR if you know how to do so until help arrives or the individual becomes alert.

In a hospital, this condition can be treated with Advanced Cardiac Life Support protocols.

Long-term management of this condition can be accomplished using medical therapy or with the placement of an ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator). Also, surgery can be used to correct underlying disorders that contribute to ventricular fibrillation.

Ventricular Fibrillation Prevention

As always, a healthy diet can go a long way towards helping to prevent heart pathologies, including those that result in ventricular fibrillation. Also, an active lifestyle which incorporates a generous amount of walking (at least 30 minutes per day) or other aerobic activity is important.

Avoiding smoking and other tobacco use, as well as the elimination of alcohol consumption and other recreational drug use, is vital to keeping a healthy heart long into life.

For people who already have ventricular fibrillation, more serious consequences can be prevented with arrhythmia medications, or, in severe, high risk cases, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs).

Finally, it is important to visit a doctor regularly for checkups and screening in order to keep a healthy weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, so as to combat VF and related disorders that can lead to death if not handled properly.

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Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 10, 2017
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