Ventricular fibrillation (also called V fib or VF) is an abnormal heart rhythm that causes death. The heart beats in an irregular rhythm and very fast. VF is responsible for 75 to 85% of sudden deaths due to heart problems.
Normally, heart muscle cells squeeze (contract) in rhythm at the same time to pump blood. These groups of cells are located in the bottom two pumping chambers of the heart (ventricles). If you have ventricular fibrillation, some heart cells contract while others are relaxing and blood stops flowing to the rest of your body.
VF starts very suddenly. With no blood flow, the brain dies within 3 to 5 minutes.
VF can occur when the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen. The most common cause of ventricular fibrillation is a heart attack. Other causes include:
The main symptom is a loss of consciousness.
If you see someone suddenly lose consciousness or collapse, take prompt action to help the person:
When they arrive, emergency medical personnel will quickly examine the person. Medicines that stabilize heart rhythm and function may be given through a vein, as needed. Normally, the person will be taken to an emergency room at a hospital. He or she may need to stay in the intensive care unit for several days.
Once the VF has been treated and normal heart rhythm restored, the healthcare provider will look for and treat the causes of the abnormal rhythm.
The best prevention is to have a heart-healthy lifestyle. There is no guarantee that you will never have VF, but these suggestions may reduce your risk. To be heart healthy:
If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your healthcare provider's advice closely.