Ventricular arrhythmia
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Ventricular arrhythmia is a condition where irregular heartbeat rhythms are coming from the ventricle chambers of the heart. This is its key difference from other irregular heart rhythm disorders. A common type of ventricular arrhythmia is ventricular tachycardia, which is sometimes called VT or “V-Tach”, is a condition where the heart undergoes a series of fast heartbeat rhythms. VT may be confused for other conditions such as supraventricular tachycardia due to the similarities in causing irregular heartbeats.


But VT is declared in cases where there are at least 3 beats coming from either ventricle of the heart at rates over 100 beats per minute. This heart rate may reach anywhere from 120 to 300 beats per minute. Ventricular fibrillation or VF is another type of ventricular arrhythmia and is the rapid, irregular quivering and trembling of the heart, also originating from the lower ventricles. It often follows other heart conditions such as heart attack or ventricular tachycardia. VT and VF are often confused for one another and are closely linked, but where as ventricular tachycardia involves a sudden fast and regular rhythm of contraction, ventricular fibrillation causes each heart fiber to beat out of sync rapidly and prevents it making a smooth and operational pumping motion. At this point the heart is described as “a bag or worms” – referring to the rapid and erratic movement of each heart muscle fiber. The rhythm can exceed 350 beats per minute. This makes it life threatening as the heart may eventually stop beating and develop into cardiac arrest.

Those suffering from ventricular arrhythmia often have palpitations as a result of their rapid heartbeat. Other symptoms which may present are chest pains, fainting, dizziness, and shortness of breath. They may also experience a decrease in blood pressure as the heart beats so rapidly it does not deliver enough blood to the body. However, symptoms may appear irregularly, and there are cases where no symptoms present themselves until it is too late, even at heart rates of 150 to 200 beats per minute. Once hear rate exceeds higher, it may develop into VF.

Upon the beginning of an attack of VF, usually the patient just collapses or loses consciousness as the brain’s blood supply is cut off immediately after the heart stops pumping blood. The patient’s breathing may also stop and will need emergency measures. However, there are some discernable symptoms which can occur up to an hour before the attack occurs. These symptoms are often the same symptoms as those accompanying ventricular.
Ventricular Arrhythmia
Image: Ventricular Arrhythmia


Both conditions stifle the blood supply to the rest of the body as the heart is unable to efficiently pump blood. Both cases cause a weak pulse or even the absence of it, particularly in ventricular fibrillation.

An electrocardiogram is the best way to determine if these symptoms really are of ventricular arrhythmia, but it needs to be performed during an instance of arrhythmia, and a portable ECG machine may be recommended by the doctor to obtain a reading of the contractions. The doctors can then further analyze the type and severity of arrhythmia based on the readings.

Ventricular arrhythmia can occur due to the disruption of electrical signals that trigger heart beats. Often this is a complication of a previous heart attack. Heart attacks can leave portions of the heart muscle scarred and unable to conduct electrical signals. This can cause the electric pulses to create a new circuit around the scar and cause rapid contraction in the affected area.


Other heart conditions which may increase the risk of arrhythmia include cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, valvular heart disease and congenital heart disease. Physical trauma or a strong electrical shock during a normal rhythm of heart beat can also induce arrhythmia. However, VT can still occur in the absence of other heart conditions. Other heart rhythm medication used to treat other conditions may trigger VT as well.


Other conditions such as a low potassium or sodium levels in the blood and hypothermia or a very low body temperature can cause arrhythmia. Some anti-arrhythmic drugs can also accidentally trigger this condition, so doctors must also check if the patient is taking other forms of medication which may have contraindications.


To stop an episode of arrhythmia, particularly in an emergency situation, defibrillators are used to deliver an electrical shock across the patient’s heart to normalize heartbeat. This is usually done to pulse-less ventricular tachycardia patients, as the potential for sudden cardiac death is greater. It is usually done to unconscious or sedated patients due to the great discomfort the shock may cause. Anti-arrhythmic drugs may also be used for emergency and long term treatment of VT.

However, when cardiac arrest occurs as a result of ventricular fibrillation, CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is necessary prior to defibrillation. It should be continuously administered until defibrillators can be used. First the patient’s breathing is checked and the airways are checked to make sure that they are not blocked. If the patient is not breathing, chest compression and resuscitative breathing may be applied to try and sustain a heartbeat.

The use of an implanted device known as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or ICD is now being administered by doctors as a treatment to ventricular arrhythmia. This device is attached to the heart with wires and when it senses a VT episode it automatically releases an electrical shock in an attempt to stop the episode. This aims to reduce dependence on anti-arrhythmic drugs but they may be still needed to stop the ICD from firing too much.

Another surgical procedure that is be used is called a catheter ablation. A device known as an electrode catheter is inserted from the groin and is pushed up the veins into the heart. The catheter then emits radio waves to destroy parts of the heart that causes arrhythmia. The treatment is done normally using only local anesthetic to numb the groin and is done while the patient is fully awake as he cannot feel the catheter move in his body.


As with many cardiovascular conditions, ventricular arrhythmia may be prevented by a low sodium and low cholesterol diet as these help ease blood circulation by maintaining a lower blood pressure and keeping blood vessels clear from clogs. Proper diet may also help balance any deficiencies or excesses in blood chemistry which may trigger ventricular arrhythmia.

Correct treatment of other existing heart conditions may also help reduce the incidence of arrhythmia. Physical activity level must also be assessed by your doctor to prevent sudden episodes of. The doctor may help find the safe level of intensity of physical activity you may perform.
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