What is Ventricular Fibrillation: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Risk Factors, Diagnosis

What Is Ventricular Fibrillation?

Ventricular Fibrillation is a potentially life threatening condition of the heart in which the heartbeat becomes exceedingly fast and produces unpredictable electrical impulses. This results in the ventricles to vibrate unnecessarily and pumping of the blood to the parts of the body gets impaired. Ventricular Fibrillation is at times started due to a heart attack. Ventricular Fibrillation is a serious condition and a medical emergency, as it causes the blood pressure to rapidly fall and virtually cuts off all blood supply to the important organs of the body. Ventricular Fibrillation may cause an individual to collapse suddenly and is the most common cause of a sudden cardiac death. In emergency situations, the CPR is the way to go for treating Ventricular Fibrillation along with use of a defibrillator. If an individual is found to be at risk for having Ventricular Fibrillation, then it can be treated with medications and devices which restore normal heart rhythm.

What Causes Ventricular Fibrillation?

There is no known cause for Ventricular Fibrillation, but studies indicate a problem with the electrical impulses, which travel through the heart after an individual had sustained a previous heart attack and there is damage to the heart muscles. In some cases, Ventricular Fibrillation starts off as a rapid heartbeat also known as ventricular tachycardia, which is caused due to abnormality in the electrical impulses beginning in the ventricles. This condition occurs usually in people with a preexisting heart condition. Usually Ventricular tachycardia lasts for about half-a-minute, but in case it exceeds that time frame and is not treated then usually it ends up with a ventricular fibrillation.

What Are The Risk Factors For Ventricular Fibrillation?

Some of the risk factors for Ventricular Fibrillation are:

  • Previous history of ventricular fibrillation
  • Previous history of a heart attack
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Certain trauma or injuries which may adversely affect the muscles of the heart
  • Recreational drug abuse
  • Abnormalities in the levels of potassium or magnesium

What Are The Symptoms Of Ventricular Fibrillation?

Ventricular Fibrillation is normally caused due to ventricular tachycardia and the symptoms of it are:

How Is Ventricular Fibrillation Diagnosed?

Ventricular Fibrillation as stated is a medical emergency and can be diagnosed by the following tests:

Heart Monitor: This test will show whether the heart is beating abnormally or not.

Checking the Pulse Rate: If an individual has Ventricular Fibrillation then there will be no pulse in that situation

In order to find out the cause of Ventricular Fibrillation, the following diagnostic tests can be done:

Electrocardiogram: This test shows the heartbeat in the form of electrical impulses. This test can show whether there is any abnormality in the rhythm of the heart and whether the heart is functioning normally.

Blood Tests: A blood test will be taken to see if any cardiac enzymes have infiltrated the blood due to a heart attack that has caused damage to the heart.

Chest X-ray: This will give an image of the heart in order to identify any abnormalities of the heart.

Echocardiogram: This test makes use of ultrasound waves to look at the functioning of the heart. This test can accurately identify any abnormality of the functioning of the heart.

Coronary Angiogram: This test is done to find out if the coronary arteries are stenosed or if there is any block in the coronary arteries. This test is done by injecting a dye into a catheter which is inserted from the groin and is connected to the arteries in the heart. This test will reveal if there are any blocks in the arteries through images on the x-ray.

CT/MRI Scan: This test will give three dimensional images of the heart and any abnormality present can be identified easily.

How Is Ventricular Fibrillation Treated?

Since Ventricular Fibrillation is a medical emergency hence emergency treatments are required. The first thing to do is to restore blood flow through the body in order to prevent any further damage to the organs of the body, especially the brain. If and when blood flow is restored further treatments may be done in order to prevent future episodes of Ventricular Fibrillation.

The Emergency Treatments Given For Ventricular Fibrillation Are:

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation or CPR: Through this blood flow can be restored in the body. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation can be performed by anyone within or outside of the family. Before starting CPR make sure to call the emergency department for immediate help. Start CPR by pushing hard on the chest, so that it gets compressed. On an average you should do about 90 to 100 compressions in a minute. Continue this until medical help arrives.

Defibrillation: This is done by giving an electrical shock to the heart, which temporarily for a moment stops the heart and the abnormal rhythms, which more often than not allows the heart to get back to normal rhythm when it resumes beating.

Some of the treatment measures to prevent Ventricular Fibrillation are medication management and in some cases surgery.

If your physician suspects that you are at risk for Ventricular Fibrillation, then he or she will begin by administrating various antiarrhythmia medications so as to prevent Ventricular Fibrillation. Most commonly used are beta blockers which are given to people who are at risk for Ventricular Fibrillation or sudden cardiac arrest.

ICD Devices: An ICD device will be implanted once the condition of the patient stabilizes so as to restore normal heart rhythm.

Coronary Angioplasty: This procedure is done for coronary arteries that are severely narrowed due to build up of plaque. In this procedure a balloon tip catheter is inserted in the artery, which is narrowed and once the site of the block is identified the balloon is inflated so as to widen the artery and restore normal blood flow.

Sometimes a stent may also be placed so as to keep the artery wide. If heart attack was the cause of Ventricular Fibrillation then this procedure may go a long way in preventing future episodes of Ventricular Fibrillation.

Coronary Bypass Surgery: In this procedure, an incision is made into the chest and the blocked artery is identified. This artery is then bypassed with the help of a graft and normal blood flow is restored. This procedure is also useful in preventing future episodes of Ventricular Fibrillation if heart attack was the cause in the first place of the episode of Ventricular Fibrillation.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 26, 2018

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