Ventricular Fibrillation

Ventricular fibrillation, or VFib, is a quivering in the heart’s lower chambers that can have serious consequences for your health and safety. It requires prompt treatment and continued care.

At the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute, our treatments reduce your risk from this rapid and erratic heart rhythm. Experienced doctors protect your heart and put your mind at ease.

Why choose Henry Ford Health System for VFib?

Our electrophysiologists are some of the most knowledgeable heart rhythm specialists in Michigan. We help you understand VFib and stay as safe as possible.

We offer a range of effective treatments, including medications to prevent VFib and implantable devices to stop episodes that occur.

What causes VFib?

The causes of VFib are not always known but may include:

  • Genetic conditions, including long or short QT syndrome
  • Heart attack
  • Imbalance of electrolytes, essential minerals in the body
  • Some medications that affect heart function
  • Weakened heart muscle, including from cardiomyopathy

Symptoms of VFib

Potential warning signs of VFib may get missed because they appear similar to symptoms of other conditions. These subtler symptoms of VFib include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat

VFib and cardiac arrest

Left untreated, VFib can cause cardiac arrest, a sudden electrical problem that causes the heart to stop beating.

Call 911 right away if you suspect someone is experiencing cardiac arrest. Signs include someone:

  • Becoming unresponsive
  • Collapsing
  • Losing consciousness
  • Not breathing

If the person is unconscious, you can attempt CPR or use a public automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is available. AEDs are easy to use and come with voice instructions.

Diagnosing VFib

If someone receives a VFib diagnosis, it most often happens after the arrhythmia causes a medical emergency. Once the emergency is over, we look for causes of VFib with tests that may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): During this test, we attach electrodes to the skin and connect them to wires. We can then measure the heart’s electrical activity.
  • Cardiac MRI, cardiac CT, chest X-ray or echocardiogram: These scans produce still or moving images of the heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization: We insert a catheter (a thin tube) into a blood vessel during this minimally invasive procedure. We then thread the catheter to your heart so we can see how it’s working.

VFib treatment

Most people need ongoing care to prevent or quickly treat future episodes of VFib and avoid cardiac arrest.

Many people receive an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). A defibrillator doesn’t prevent VFib. Instead, it monitors your heart’s rhythm and resets it right away when it detects a problem. This automatic reset happens within seconds and is effective at preventing cardiac arrest and other complications.

Our specialized device clinic remotely monitors ICDs around the clock. We can spot signs of a problem and ensure your ICD functions effectively. We also see people for checkups in our office. Find out more about how we monitor ICDs.

We may also recommend arrhythmia medications that control your heart rhythm and rate, or medication for high blood pressure.

Take the next step.

Request an appointment with an electrophysiologist.

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Please call 911 if you have an emergency or urgent medical question.

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