Ventricular Fibrillation: Causes, Symptoms and Management

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Ventricular fibrillation is a very serious arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) that can often lead to cardiac arrest, which is highly fatal in individuals.

Ventricular fibrillation is a very serious arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is abnormal heart rhythm wherein the heart beat is faster or slower than normal. Heart is the main organ that pumps oxygen-rich blood to the brain, lungs, and other organs of the body. For this to occur, the heart has its own electrical system that ensures its contraction in a systematic method. The electrical impulse that signals the heart to contract is initiated in the heart’s natural pacemaker, also called the sinoatrial or sinus (SA) node. The signal would then leave the SA node and transmits through the electrical pathway along the heart. The heart would beat either faster or slower depending on the different nerve message. When there is a problem with the heart’s electrical conduction system, ventricular fibrillation can occur.

Fibrillation is the uncontrolled twitching or quivering of fibrils (muscle fibres). When it occurs in the ventricles, or the lower chambers of the heart, it is called ventricular fibrillation. When an individual experiences ventricular fibrillation, the heart does not pump blood.This can result to sudden cardiac arrest, where the heart stops beating abruptly.Emergency medical services should be called immediately if symptoms of ventricular fibrillation manifest.

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Causes of Ventricular Fibrillation

The exactcause of ventricular fibrillation is not always known but it is known to be caused by a disruption in the electrical system of the heart.Some of the possible causes include:

  • Myocardial infarction (most common cause) or scar from a previous heart attack
  • Ventricular tachycardia: fast heartbeat
  • Narrowed coronary arteries
  • Electrocution accidents
  • Heart injuries
  • Heart surgery
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Sudden cardiac death

Symptoms of Ventricular Fibrillation

In some cases, ventricular fibrillation is asymptomatic. However, some of the possible symptoms are the following:

  • Sudden fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Quick heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

First Aid Management for Ventricular Fibrillation

It is essential to apply first aid and CPR in case an individual suffers from ventricular fibrillation. To manage ventricular fibrillation, the following steps are generally advised:

  • Call for emergency medical services immediately.
  • Check for the victim’s circulation, airway, and breathing.
    • Check for the victim’s pulse by the groove on the neck. If no pulse is detected, initiate CPR. Give 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breathings (if personal protective breathing devices are available).
    • If the victim is unconscious but there is pulse, ensure that there is no obstruction in the airway. Turn the victim’s head to the side.
    • To check for breathing, position own cheek a few inches from the victim’s nose and mouth. Feel for air and watch for rise and fall of chest. Begin rescue breathing if necessary.
  • Continue to give CPR until signs of consciousness begin to show.
  • If an external defibrillator is available and one is knowledgeable on how to properly use it, make use of this instead.
  • Do not leave the victim alone until the paramedics arrive.

Enrol in First Aid Training and CPR Courses to learn how to effectively and properly give CPR to victims. CPR Courses also teach first aiders how to use an AED. CPR and AEDare lifesaving techniques that can be useful managing victims of ventricular fibrillation.


Ventricular fibrillation.(2011). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on October 15, 2013, from

Ventricular fibrillation.(2012). National Institute of Health. Retrieved on October 15, 2013, from


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