Ventricular Fibrillation Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Ventricular fibrillation (V-fib) takes place when the ventricles beat at a severely abnormal rhythm. It is a life-threatening arrhythmia and can lead to sudden death. There is rapid contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle producing low cardiac output, leading to no circulation of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the rest of the body.

The main cause of venticular fibrillation is heart disease, as well as chemical imbalances.

Electrolyte Imbalance:

Electrolytes are important chemicals needed for the heart to function normally. If too much or not enough electrolytes exist in the body, the heart reacts by not beating effectively, leading to arrhythmia or sudden cardiac death.

Chicken noodle soup is rich in electrolytes and great to eat when not feeling well, but caution must be used with processed soups as they tend to be high in salt content. This is not advisable for persons who must monitor their sodium intake. Fresh homemade heart healthy soups are best.

Electrolytes Include:

Bicarbonate
Calcium
Chloride
Magnesium
Phosphate
Potassium
Sodium
Sulfate

All are necessary at the appropriate levels for normal heart functioning. Electrolytes can be lost through heavy perspiration or increased urination. Anything that causes the body to rapidly lose fluids can result in electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to cardiac arrhythmia.

Symptoms:

When the heart is not pumping blood effectively, as in ventricular fibrillation, the victim will collapse and become unresponsive, due to the heart ceasing to function. There is no pulse or blood pressure. Prior to the onset of a V-fib episode, the patient may voice complaints of chest heaviness, difficulty breathing, and profuse sweating.

How Is It Treated?

V-fib has dire consequences and is treated via emergency measures. Cardioversion using a defibrillator shocks the heart back into rhythm, as well as the administration of anti-arrhythmic medications given intravenously. All work together to get the heart back into normal sinus rhythm (NSR). In some cases, the doctor may employ a technique called carotid massage, which releases chemicals into the body that slow down the heart rate. Carotid massage is usually reserved for younger patients because of the risk of stroke in older patients. However, it has been used on older patients as necessary and depending on their present condition.

Prevention Is Key:

Ventricular fibrillation can lead to instant death. After successful resuscitation, the patient may require mechanical ventilation, or ventilator, until stable and able to breathe on their own. There is also the added risk of a second episode. This same risk also presents itself in victims who have suffered heart attacks. To offset this possibility, a surgical procedure can be performed to implant a defibrillator or a pacemaker in the patients left upper chest. The procedure usually takes about 1-2 hours to complete, and helps to keep the heart rate at a normal pace. Should an arrhythmia occur, the defibrillator will automatically deliver small electrical shocks to the heart to regain it’s normal sinus rhythm.

Everyone should take a CPR course. It is the opinion of this writer that it should be taught in schools all over the country. CPR is easy to learn and is precious knowledge, especially if there are young children in the home, or when persons with heart disease and the elderly are present. Contact your local Red Cross for class dates and times. Classes usually last just a few days. It is a small amount of time to spend to learn how to save a life.

BOLA TANGKAS