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Ventricular Fibrillation

Background

Ventricular fibrillation (VF) is a life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia in which the coordinated contraction of the ventricular myocardium is replaced by high-frequency, disorganized excitation, resulting in [the effective] failure of the heart to pump blood. VF is the most commonly identified arrhythmia in cardiac arrest patients. In the prehospital setting, 65%-85% of patients in cardiac arrest have VF identified as the initial rhythm by emergency services personnel.
(See Presentation and Workup.)

VF usually ends in death within minutes unless prompt corrective measures are instituted. The rate of survival in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest has increased with the expansion of community-based emergency rescue systems, widespread use of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), and increasing numbers of laypersons trained in bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but it nonetheless remains low. (See Prognosis, Treatment and Medication.)

In hospital settings, VF is treated using Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) protocols. Long-term management may be accomplished with medical therapy or placement of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Surgical correction of underlying disorders (eg, percutaneous coronary intervention, coronary artery bypass surgery) may also be indicated. (See Treatment and Medication.)

For related topics, see Ventricular Fibrillation in Emergency Medicine, Sudden Cardiac Death, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and Pediatric Ventricular Fibrillation.

Patient education

For patient education information, see the Heart Health Center, Cholesterol Center, and Healthy Living Center, as well as Atrial Fibrillation (A Fib), Chest Pain, Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disorders), Heart Disease, Heart Attack, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), and Tetralogy of Fallot.

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