Ventricular fibrillation is a heart rhythm disorder that causes the heart to stop. During ventricular fibrillation, the heart stops beating normally and begins to vibrate uncontrollably. You can find more information below.
What is ventricular fibrillation?
Ventricular fibrillation is a heart rhythm problem that occurs when the heart beats rapidly and irregularly. This causes the pumping chambers (ventricles) in the heart to vibrate unnecessarily instead of pumping blood. Ventricular fibrillation, sometimes triggered by a heart attack, causes blood pressure to drop and cut off blood flow to vital organs.
An emergency that requires immediate medical attention, ventricular fibrillation can cause a person to die within seconds. It is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death. Emergency treatment includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and shock is delivered to the heart with a device called an automatic external defibrillator (AED).
Treatments to prevent sudden cardiac death for those at risk for ventricular fibrillation include medications and implantable devices that restore a normal heart rhythm.
Causes of ventricular fibrillation
The reason for this condition is not always known. The most common cause is problems caused by damage after the first heart attack or an injury to the muscle tissue of your heart from a previous heart attack.
In some cases, it starts as a rapid heartbeat called ventricular tachycardia . This rapid but regular beating of the heart is caused by abnormal electrical impulses that begin in the ventricles.
Most ventricular tachycardia occurs in people who have a heart problem, such as injury or damage from a heart attack. Sometimes ventricular tachycardia can last less than 30 seconds and cause no symptoms. But in some cases, ventricular tachycardia can also be a sign of more serious heart problems.
If ventricular tachycardia lasts more than 30 seconds, it usually causes palpitations, dizziness, or fainting. Untreated ventricular tachycardia often leads to ventricular fibrillation.
Most cases of ventricular fibrillation are linked to some form of heart disease.
Who is at risk?
Factors that can increase the risk of ventricular fibrillation include:
- Previous experience of ventricular fibrillation
- previous heart attack
- A congenital heart defect ( such as congenital heart disease )
- Heart muscle disease ( cardiomyopathy )
- Injuries that damage the heart muscle, such as electric shock
- Use of illegal drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine
- Significant electrolyte abnormalities such as potassium or magnesium
Symptoms of ventricular fibrillation
Unconsciousness is the most common symptom of ventricular fibrillation.
Early signs and symptoms
A condition in which the lower chambers of the heart beat too rapidly (ventricular tachycardia) can lead to ventricular fibrillation. Symptoms of ventricular tachycardia include:
- chest pain
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
When should you see a doctor?
If the person has any of the above symptoms and the situation seems serious, you should seek emergency help immediately. If someone is trained in first aid, they can assist until the ambulance arrives.
Diagnosis of ventricular fibrillation
Doctors will tell if ventricular fibrillation is present based on the following results:
- Heart monitoring: A heart monitor that will read the electrical impulses that make the heart beat will show that the heart is beating irregularly or not at all.
- Pulse control: There will be no pulse in ventricular fibrillation.
Tests to diagnose the cause of ventricular fibrillation
Additional testing may be needed to find out what is causing this condition, which may include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test records the electrical activity of the heart through electrodes attached to the skin. Impulses are recorded as waves displayed on a monitor or printed on paper.
- Blood tests: In cases where the heart has been damaged by a heart attack, emergency room doctors take blood samples to test for the presence of certain heart enzymes that have leaked into the blood.
- Chest X-ray: An X -ray image of the chest allows the doctor to check the size and shape of the heart and blood vessels.
- Echocardiogram: This test uses sound waves to produce an image of the heart. Electronically processed sound waves provide video images of the heart.
- Coronary catheterization (angiogram): To determine if the coronary arteries are narrowed and blocked, a liquid dye is injected, usually through a long, thin tube (catheter) that runs from an artery in the leg to the arteries in the heart. The dye makes the arteries visible on the X-ray, revealing areas of blockage.
- Cardiac computed tomography (CT): In a cardiac CT scan , you lie on a table inside a machine. An X-ray tube inside the machine rotates around the body and collects images of the heart and chest.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): For cardiac magnetic resonance imaging , you stand on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produces a magnetic field that aligns atomic particles in certain cells. Radio waves directed at these aligned particles produce signals that create images of the heart.
Ventricular fibrillation therapy
Emergency treatments for ventricular fibrillation focus on restoring blood flow throughout the body as quickly as possible to avoid damage to the brain and other organs. Once blood flow is restored through the heart, there will also be treatment options, if needed, to help prevent future episodes of ventricular fibrillation.
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): This treatment can help maintain blood flow throughout the body by mimicking the pumping action of the heart. CPR can be performed by anyone, including family members who are trained for it.
- Defibrillation: An electric shock from the chest wall to the heart stops the heart and chaotic rhythm as soon as possible. This usually allows the normal heart rhythm to continue.
Treatments to prevent future problems
If the doctor determines that ventricular fibrillation is caused by a change in the structure of the heart, such as scar tissue from a heart attack, he or she may recommend taking medication or performing a medical procedure to reduce its future risk. Treatment options may include:
- Medications: Doctors use a variety of anti-arrhythmic medications for the immediate or long-term treatment of ventricular fibrillation. A class of drugs called beta-blockers are commonly used in people who are at risk for ventricular fibrillation or sudden cardiac arrest. Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): Once the condition has stabilized, the doctor may recommend implantation of an ICD. The ICD is a battery-operated device implanted near the left collarbone.
- Coronary angioplasty and stent placement: This procedure is for the treatment of severe coronary artery disease. It opens blocked coronary arteries and allows blood to flow more freely to the heart. If the ventricular fibrillation was caused by a heart attack, this procedure can reduce the risk of future episodes of ventricular fibrillation.
- Coronary bypass surgery: Another procedure to improve blood flow is coronary bypass surgery. Bypass surgery involves stitching veins or arteries somewhere beyond the blocked or narrowed coronary artery, restoring blood flow to the heart. This can improve blood flow to the heart and reduce the risk of ventricular fibrillation.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Lifestyle changes that help keep your heart as healthy as possible include:
- Eating a healthy diet: Heart-healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as lean protein sources such as soy, beans, nuts, fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy products. Excess salt (sodium), added sugar and fats should be avoided.
- Regular exercise: You can try 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
- Quitting smoking: You are more likely to quit smoking successfully if you use strategies that have proven helpful. You can talk to your doctor about medications that can reduce your cravings and reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range: Take your prescribed medications regularly to correct high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Limit alcohol intake: Too much alcohol can harm your heart. If you choose to drink alcohol, use it in moderation.