Ventricular fibrillation (V-fib) is a type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, that affects your heart’s ventricles. Your heart is a muscle system that contains four chambers; the two bottom chambers are the ventricles. In a healthy heart, your blood pumps evenly in and out of these chambers, and this keeps blood flowing throughout your body.
An arrhythmia that starts in your ventricle is called ventricular fibrillation. This occurs when the electrical signals that tell your heart muscle to pump cause your ventricles to quiver instead. The quivering means that your blood is not pumping blood throughout your body. In some people, V-fib may happen several times a day. This is called an “electrical storm.”
Because V-fib can lead to cardiac arrest and death, it requires immediate medical attention.
This rhythm is life-threatening because there is no pulse and complete loss of consciousness. A person in VF requires prompt defibrillation to restore the normal rhythm and function of the heart. It will result in sudden cardiac death if not treated within seconds.
A defibrillator is an electronic device used to treat V-fib. It produces an electric shock that can restore a normal heartbeat. Many public places, such as malls, movie theaters, and restaurants, now have defibrillators on-site. CPR training often includes instruction on their use. If you find and use a defibrillator promptly when someone collapses, you can save a life.
Anyone can develop V-fib, but the most common risk factors are:
To diagnose V-fib, your physician may consider:
If you are at risk for V-fib, you should wear a medical ID and let friends and loved ones know what to do in an emergency. Talk with them about when to call 911, and encourage them to learn how to use a defibrillator.
It is extremely important to make sure that people around you know what to do in an emergency. Someone should call 911 immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms of V-fib:
People who have had V-fib, or who are at high risk for it, should follow their doctors’ recommendations for taking medication to control arrhythmia. It's also helpful to research and discuss other more invasive options, such as an implantable defibrillator, or surgery, to prevent V-fib. Educate your friends and family about how to respond if you collapse and stop breathing.
For more information on V-fib or to schedule an appointment, call us at 314-996-3627 or contact us online.
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