Ventricular Fibrillation

What is Ventricular Fibrillation?

Ventricular fibrillation is a serious medical condition that can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. It is a type of irregular heart rhythm in which the heart’s lower chambers quiver or “fibrillate,” instead of pumping blood effectively. Ventricular fibrillation can cause death within minutes if not treated.

Causes of Ventricular Fibrillation

Most cases of ventricular fibrillation occur as a complication of existing heart problems such as heart disease, a heart attack, or an electrolyte imbalance. Other causes of ventricular fibrillation are drugs or toxins, electrical shock, and trauma to the chest.

Signs and Symptoms of Ventricular Fibrillation

The most notable sign of ventricular fibrillation is an abnormal and erratic heartbeat. Other symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Unconsciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of pulse

Treatment for Ventricular Fibrillation

Treatment for ventricular fibrillation must begin immediately to prevent death. Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you are trained. If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available, apply defibrillation pads to the person's chest as soon as possible.

More advanced treatment, such as shock, medications, or pacing may be used in a medical setting. Other procedures may also be used to control the heart rate or to treat underlying conditions, such as coronary artery disease or an electrolyte imbalance.

Prevention of Ventricular Fibrillation

Ventricular fibrillation is often caused by underlying heart conditions or factors such as lifestyle issues or genetic predispositions. To reduce the risk of ventricular fibrillation, doctors recommend:

  • Treating heart disease
  • Managing high blood pressure
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Quitting smoking