Ventricular fibrillation is a serious heart disorder that causes abnormal heart rhythms. This can be fatal. For many people with this condition, irregular heart rhythm is the first and only sign of coronary artery disease.
Ventricular fibrillation (VFib) is sometimes confused with atrial fibrillation (AFib). Both involve irregular heart rhythms, but affect various parts of the heart. AFib can also indicate a serious heart condition, but is usually a symptom of a chronic problem, not a life-threatening feature.
In emergency treatment, the focus is on restoring blood flow as quickly as possible to organs, including the brain. Patients can also receive treatment to minimize the risk of recurrence. Emergency treatment can include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of a defibrillator.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) aims to restore blood flow throughout the body. Anyone who has basic life support training can do it. In the past, CPR involved a cycle of 30 chest compressions to the heart, and then two breaths mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Guidelines issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) in 2008 suggest that breathing into someone's mouth may not be necessary.
Instead, the respondent must provide about two compressions per second, or between 100 and 120 per minute. The chest must be allowed to rise again between compressions. Once they start, they must continue until the emergency officer arrives or someone comes in with a portable defibrillator. Early CPR and use of a defibrillator increase one's chances of survival.
Using a defibrillator
Defibrillator can be used together with CPR. The device sends an electric shock to the patient's chest. The aim is to shock the heart back to normal activities. Shock can initially stop the heartbeat, but can also stop chaotic rhythms and restore normal function.
Public use defibrillators can be used by lay people. This device often has voice instructions on its use. Public-use defibrillators are programmed to detect ventricular fibrillation and produce a shock at the right time.
In many countries, portable defibrillators that are used publicly are available in public places, such as airports, major train and bus stations, shopping centers, community centers, a gathering place for the elderly, casinos, and so on.
When the human heart beats, electrical impulses that trigger contractions need to follow a specific route to the heart. If something is wrong with this impulse pathway, arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeat, can occur.
Ventricular fibrillation occurs when problems in the lower chambers cause irregular heart rhythms. When the muscles in the four chambers of the heart tighten, a heartbeat occurs. During a heartbeat, space closes and pushes blood out.
During heartbeats, muscular atria, or smaller upper chambers, contract and fill the relaxed ventricles with blood. Contractions begin when the sinus node, a small group of cells in the right atrium, emits electrical impulses that make the right and left atria contract.
Electrical impulses continue to the heart center, to the atrioventricular node. This node is located in the pathway between the atria and ventricles. From the atrioventricular node, impulses move through the ventricles, making them contract. As a result, blood is pumped out of the heart and into the body.
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