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Ventricular fibrillation

Ventricular fibrillation: Symptoms, Cause and Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment | National Heart Centre Singapore

Ventricular fibrillation - What it is

​Ventricular fibrillation occurs when there is rapid or chaotic heartbeat due to the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart) beating too fast and losing its pump function. It is a life-threatening and emergency condition.

Ventricular fibrillation - Symptoms

The main symptom of ventricular fibrillation is losing consciousness and sudden cardiac death.

Another early sign of symptom is ventricular tachycardia, a very rapid, but regular heartbeat of 100 beats or more a minute occurring in the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. If ventricular tachycardia is left untreated, it can lead to ventricular fibrillation. Patient with ventricular tachycardia may feel palpitations, chest discomfort/pain, shortness of breath or giddiness. 

Ventricular fibrillation - How to prevent?

Ventricular fibrillation - Causes and Risk Factors

​Ventricular fibrillation is characterised by very fast and very irregular heartbeats. It is a form of arrhythmia and is usually due to poor functioning of the heart’s ventricles. A patient could lose consciousness within seconds and die within minutes.

Common causes of ventricular fibrillation include:
  1. High risks of coronary artery disease
  2. Poor heart function and heart failure
  3. Strong Family history of SCD (including genetic disorder of the heart muscles (e.g. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy)
  4. Electrical disorders of the heart (e.g. Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome) or inherent abnormality of membrane of the heart muscle cells specialised in conduction (e.g. Brugada Syndrome and congenital long QT syndrome)
  5. Severe metabolic derangement (e.g. Severe hyperkalemia)

Ventricular fibrillation - Diagnosis

The doctor will perform an initial evaluation and order some diagnostic tests to evaluate the condition of the patient.

Examples for initial diagnostic tests are: 

Ventricular fibrillation - Treatments

Emergency treatments are required for ventricular fibrillation, such as performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation. These treatments aim to restore blood flow through the body as fast as possible to prevent brain damage and restore the heart function. 

It is also essential to have other treatment to prevent future episodes of ventricular fibrillation.

Main stay of treatment is the optimal therapy of the underlying heart or metabolic disease. Doctors would normally prescribe oral medications such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers to slow down heart rates.

The doctor may also recommend having an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) implanted in your chest, which is a small device that can help to monitor the heartbeat and restore it to a normal heart rhythm.

If the condition is caused by other underlying such as a heart valve disorder, patient will require treatment of that pre-existing condition and may require surgery.

Ventricular fibrillation - Preparing for surgery

Ventricular fibrillation - Post-surgery care

Ventricular fibrillation - Other Information

When to seek emergency medical care
Seek immediate medical help if heart palpitations are accompanied by the following symptoms:
  • Severe chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual sweating
  • Loss of consciousness
It is also important to consult a doctor without delay if you have pre-existing heart conditions or a family history of sudden death.
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