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Ventricular Fibrillation-Discussion 4
Ventricular fibrillation (VF) is a heart rhythm problem that occurs when the heart beats with
rapid, erratic electrical impulses. The pumping chambers in your heart (ventricles) to quiver
uselessly, instead of pumping blood. During ventricular fibrillation, blood pressure plummets,
cutting off blood supply to your vital organs, including the brain. Most people lose
consciousness within seconds and require immediate medical attention, including
cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and shocks to the heart with a device called a defibrillator.
Without CPR or defibrillation, death results in minutes.
During ventricular fibrillation, blood is not removed from the heart. The most common cause for
VF is a heart attack. VF can also occur when the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen or if the
patient has other heart disorders. Most people with VF have no history of heart disease, but may
have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure and
Risk factors:
Congenital heart disease
Electrocution accidents or injury to the heart
Heart attack
Heart muscle disease
Heart surgery
Sudden cardiac death (commotion cordis), typically occurring in athletes after a trauma over the
surface of the heart
People who have a VF episode will suddenly collapse or become unconscious, because the brain
and muscles have stopped getting blood from the heart. These symptoms may occur within 1
hour before attack:
Chest pain
Rapid heartbeat
Shortness of breath
It is unlikely you’d be diagnosed at a routine doctor’s appointment unless you happened to
collapse in the office. Ventricular fibrillation is always diagnosed in an emergency situation.
Your doctors will know if you’re in a VF based on results from:
Heart monitoring
Pulse check
Electrocardiogram (ECG)
Blood tests
Chest X-ray
Coronary catheterization
Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
If you’re at risk of ventricular fibrillation, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent
episodes of VF by reducing your risk of having a heart attack.
If you smoke; stop. It is the single most important thing you can do to improve heart
Check your cholesterol
Control your blood pressure
Exercise regularly
Maintain healthy weight
A heart-healthy diet; plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants that help
prevent everyday wear and tear on your coronary arteries
If your doctor finds that your VF was caused by a change in the structure of your heart, such as
scarred tissue from a heart attack, they may recommend you take medications or have a medical
procedure performed to reduce your sick of future attacks. Doctors use various anti-arrhythmic
drugs for emergency or long-term treatment. Medications called beta blockers are commonly
used in patients at risk of VF or sudden cardiac arrest. Other possible drugs include angiotensinconverting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, calcium channel blockers or a drug called amiodarone
(Cordarone, Pacerone).
The survival rate for a person who has a VF attack outside the hospital ranges between 2% and
25%. The most common complication of VF is sudden death (death that occurs within 1 hour
after symptoms started). Other complications included: coma, nerve problems similar to those
after a stroke, and reduced mental perception. Sudden cardiac death (SCD) accounts for
approximately 300,000 deaths per year in the United States, which 75-80% are due to VF. More
deaths are attributable to VF than to lung cancer, breast cancer, or AIDS. The increasing
frequency of VF events is thought to reflect a change in dietary and lifestyle habits. Men have a
higher incidence of VF than women, about 3 to 1. The peak occurrence age range is between 4575 years old.