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Ventricular fibrillation (VF) is a condition where the heart rate increases abnormally. This is caused by ineffective contraction of the muscles of the ventricles, the lower 2 chambers of the human heart. The cardiac muscles in the ventricles start beating rapidly, making them quiver rather than contract smoothly. Due to this abnormality occurring in the lower chambers of the heart, blood cannot be removed from the heart by the coronary pumping mechanism. This abnormal rhythm is the most common form of arrhythmia. This condition is a case of medical emergency and can be life-threatening.

Causes

  • Heart attack
  • Electrocution
  • Drowning
  • Heart muscle disorder
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Reduced consciousness level
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathies
  • Heart surgery
  • Ischemia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Brugada syndrome
  • Torsade de pointes
  • Hypothermia
  • Unstable angina
Symptoms

The initial symptoms of ventricular fibrillation are chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and nausea. It causes unconsciousness within no time, preceded by seizures. When untreated, it can lead to irreversible brain damage within minutes. This is the last stage, and the brain becoming devoid of oxygen supply finally leads to death. The patient's skin turns completely pale and the pupils dilate. The pulse is undetectable. Heartbeat and blood pressure becomes zero. Cardiac arrest readily and quite quickly results from ventricular fibrillation if the initial stages are neglected.

Apart from these symptoms, there can be bodily disorders which are often neglected and remain undiagnosed. These include high cholesterol, undiagnosed heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. Sometimes, undiagnosed hemochromatosis or metabolic syndrome can also lead to ventricular fibrillation.

Diagnosis

The symptoms need to be diagnosed immediately to prevent fatality. It is confirmed by electrocardiography (ECG). In case of medical emergency, the patient is under the control of Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). It is provided only by qualified practitioners and only under threatening emergencies. If the arrhythmia continues further, the ECG will show a flat curve without rhythm, which doesn't response to any therapy.

Treatment

The symptoms can be checked with the help of an electric defibrillator or an implantable electric defibrillator. The electric discharge reverses the effect of ventricular fibrillation. Precordial thump is delivered if defibrillator is unavailable. It helps to regain cardiac function by releasing energy. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is started within few minutes of ventricular fibrillation. CPR includes artificial ventilation and closed chest cardiac massage to restore normal heartbeat. The prescribed drugs to tone down arrhythmia are Amiodarone, Pacerone, Cordarone, Braxan, and Bretylium. Other effective drugs include Alti-Amiodarone, Novo-Amiodarone, Gen-Amiodarone, Rhoxal-amiodarone. Doctors usually carry on treatments with these drugs. It's strictly advised not to consume any of these drugs unless specified by doctors.

Cases of ventricular fibrillation usually involve serious complications, though they are not always fatal. Survivors can slip into a coma, or suffer from nerve problems or even reduced mental perception.