VF; Fibrillation – ventricular
Ventricular fibrillation (VF) is a severely abnormal heart rhythm (
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The heart pumps blood to the lungs, brain, and other organs. Interruption of the heartbeat for only a few seconds can lead to fainting (syncope) or cardiac arrest.
Fibrillation is an uncontrolled twitching or quivering of muscle fibers (fibrils). When it occurs in the lower chambers of the heart, it is called ventricular fibrillation. During ventricular fibrillation, blood is not pumped from the heart. Sudden cardiac death results.
The most common cause of VF is a heart attack. However, VF can occur whenever the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen.
Conditions that can lead to VF include:
- Electrocution accidents or injury to the heart
Heart disease that is present at birth (congenital)
Heart muscle disease, including
Narrowed coronary arteries
Sudden cardiac death (commotio cordis), typically occurring in athletes after an injury over the surface of the heart
Most people with VF have no history of heart disease. Yet they often have risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
A person who has a VF episode can suddenly collapse or become unconscious, because the brain and muscles have stopped receiving blood from the heart.
The following symptoms may occur within minutes to 1 hour before the collapse:
Shortness of breath
Signs and tests
A cardiac monitor will show a very disorganized heart rhythm.
Tests will be done to search for the cause of the VF.
Ventricular fibrillation is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately to save a person’s life.
If a person who is having a VF episode collapses at home or becomes unconscious, call the local emergency number (such as 911).
- While waiting for help, place the person’s head and neck in line with the rest of the body to help make breathing easier. Start
CPRby doing chest compressions.
- Continue to do this until the person becomes alert or help arrives.
VF is treated by delivering a quick electric shock through the chest using a device called an external defibrillator. The electric shock can immediately restore the heartbeat to a normal rhythm, and should be done as quickly as possible. Many public places now have these machines.
Medicines may be given to control the heartbeat and heart function.
It is a good idea for family members and friends of people who have had VF and heart disease to take a CPR course. CPR courses are available through the American Red Cross, hospitals, or the American Heart Association.
VF will lead to death within a few minutes unless it is treated quickly and effectively. Even then, long-term survival for people who live through a VF attack outside of the hospital is between 2% and 25%.
People who have survived VF may be in a coma or have long-term damage.
Related:Implantable cardioverter defibrillator – discharge, Arrhythmias, Heart attack, Congenital heart disease, Cardiomyopathy, Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator