What Is Ventricular Fibrillation

Ventricular fibrillation is a life-threatening condition, when extremely fast irregular heart rhythms caused by disturbances in the electrical system of the heart, incapacitates the ventricles from pumping blood.

• Ventricular fibrillation is a potentially fatal situation requiring immediate medical attention.
• The first symptom is unconsciousness, which may culminate in death, if not revived quickly.
• Diagnosis is by electrocardiography which helps find the reason of the cardiac arrest.
• Immediate CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation followed by defibrillation may help re-establish the normal rhythm of the heart and prevent death.

In ventricular fibrillation, the ventricles fail to pump blood as they do not contract normally. They just quiver due to a series of uncoordinated impulses stimulating the ventricles. Ventricular fibrillation can be termed cardiac arrest as the heart stops pumping out blood. In the absence or delay of competent medical intervention, it always results in death.

Coronary artery disease, which impedes the supply of blood to the muscles of the heart, is the most commonly diagnosed reason for ventricular fibrillation. It can also result due to certain other conditions which either directly or indirectly affects the heart such as electrical shock, hypoxemia or low level of oxygen in the blood due to drowning, circulatory shock resulting from abnormally low blood pressure or low blood potassium levels (hypokalemia). Certain antiarrhythmic drugs called sodium channel blockers and potassium blockers may cause disturbances in the electrical system of the heart resulting in ventricular fibrillation.

Symptoms and Diagnosis Of Ventricular Fibrillation

The symptoms of Ventricular fibrillation start with sudden unconsciousness, which quickly deteriorates into seizures resulting from lack of oxygen in the brain causing brain damage, which may not be reversible. Without immediate medical intervention, death occurs within minutes.
When a person suddenly falls unconscious or turns pale and collapses, it is usually assumed to be cardiac arrest.

Extremely low blood pressure that is hard to measure by the blood pressure cuff, absence of pulse, undetectable heartbeat, and dilated pupils point to ventricular fibrillation. Electrocardiography can confirm whether the cardiac arrest is due to ventricular fibrillation.

Treatment Of Ventricular Fibrillation

CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation must be administered immediately as ventricular fibrillation is an extremely dangerous condition that can be fatal. Electric shock (cardio version) is applied as soon as possible to revive the heart.

When ventricular fibrillation is accompanied by heart failure or shock, the prognosis is not good since 70% of patients die even after resuscitation and cardioversion. Without such additional risk factors, cardioversion, if given immediately, can reverse ventricular fibrillation in 95 out of hundred cases.

To prevent repeated ventricular fibrillation, those who survive an incidence are often fitted with an implantable automatic defibrillator, which will deliver a shock whenever required. If any reversible or treatable condition is the underlying cause of ventricular fibrillation, it is treated and corrected. Drugs to prevent a recurrence are often prescribed, including antiarrhythmic drugs that control abnormal arrhythmias.

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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