Ventricular Fibrillation

The ventricles are the large lower chamber of the heart. They are responsible for moving blood to the organs and tissues of the body. In ventricular fibrillation, the heart’s ventricles contract in a rapid and chaotic manner. As a result, little or no blood is pumped from the heart. Unless medical help is provided immediately, ventricular fibrillation will lead to cardiovascular collapse and sudden death.

  • Causes


    Causes of ventricular fibrillation include:


    • Inadequate blood flow to the heart due to
      coronary artery disease (CAD)

    • Scar tissue within the heart due to previous injury to heart, such as a
      heart attack (myocardial infarction)
    • Congestive heart failure (CHF)

    • Infection of the heart muscle (
      myocarditis
      )
    • Shock
    • Electrical shock
    • Drowning

    • Dangerously low body temperature (
      hypothermia
      )
    • Electrolyte imbalance (eg, very low levels of potassium or magnesium in the blood)
    • Drugs that affect the electrical currents of the heart (eg, sodium or potassium channel blockers)
    • Low atmospheric oxygen

  • Definition

    The ventricles are the large lower chamber of the heart. They are responsible for moving blood to the organs and tissues of the body. In ventricular fibrillation, the heart’s ventricles contract in a rapid and chaotic manner. As a result, little or no blood is pumped from the heart. Unless medical help is provided immediately, ventricular fibrillation will lead to cardiovascular collapse and sudden death.

    Blood Flow Through Heart
    blood flow heart
    Ventricles are lower area of red.
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis


    Ventricular fibrillation is suspected when a person collapses suddenly and has no detectable pulse or heartbeat. The diagnosis is confirmed by
    electrocardiography (ECG)
    . ECG records the heart’s activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle.

  • Prevention


    To help reduce your chance of getting ventricular fibrillation, take the following steps:


    • Lower your risk of CAD:

      • Eat a healthful diet, one that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
      • Exercise regularly.
      • If you are overweight, lose weight.
      • Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.

    • Avoid or limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that may contribute to
      arrhythmias
      or heart disease.
    • Avoid unnecessary stress, and try to manage or control stressful situations that cannot be avoided.
    • If you have a family history of this condition, see your doctor. He can evaluate your risk.

    If a person is at high risk of ventricular fibrillation, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) can be surgically placed in the chest to help stop ventricular fibrillation. In addition, anti-arrhythmic drugs may be given to try to prevent a future episode.

  • Risk Factors

    Ventricular fibrillation is most commonly associated with CAD. Factors that can increase risk of CAD will also increase the risk of ventricular fibrillation.


    The following factors increase your chance of developing ventricular fibrillation. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

    • CAD
    • CHF

    • Heart rhythm disorder (ie,
      arrhythmia
      ), especially multiple premature ventricular beats
    • Previous
      heart attack
    • Previous ventricular fibrillation
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Smoking

    • Excessive use of
      alcohol
    • Drug abuse
    • Stress
    • High cholesterol
      (dyslipidemia)
    • Obesity
    • A high-fat diet
    • A family history of cardiovascular disease
    • Advancing age

  • Symptoms


    Ventricular fibrillation happens without warning. When it occurs, symptoms may include:

    • Loss of consciousness within seconds
    • Sudden collapse
    • Seizures
    • Loss of color in the skin
    • Dilated pupils
    • No detectable pulse, heartbeat, or blood pressure

  • Treatment

    Ventricular fibrillation must be treated as an extreme emergency and treatment must be administered within 4-6 minutes.