Ventricular Tachycardia

Ventricular Arrhythmias

These arrhythmias start in the ventricles. They can be very dangerous and usually need medical attention right away.

Ventricular arrhythmias include ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation (v-fib). Coronary heart disease, heart attack, weakened heart muscle, and other problems can cause ventricular arrhythmias. In some cases, ventricular tachycardia can occur in the absence of any structural heart disease, that is, with a normal heart.

Ventricular Tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia is a fast, regular beating of the ventricles that may last for only a few seconds or for much longer.

A few beats of ventricular tachycardia often don't cause problems. However, episodes that last for more than a few seconds can be dangerous. Ventricular tachycardia can turn into other, more dangerous arrhythmias, such as v-fib.

Ventricular Fibrillation

Ventricular fibrillation, also called VF or V-fib occurs when disorganized electrical signals make the ventricles quiver instead of pump normally. Without the ventricles pumping blood out to the body, you'll lose consciousness within seconds and die within minutes if not treated.

To prevent death, the condition must be treated right away with an electric shock to the heart called defibrillation (de-fib-ri-LA-shun). Defibrillation can be accomplished using an external defibrillator, with paddles or patches placed on the chest, or via an ICD, or implanted defibrillator.

V-fib may happen during or after a heart attack or in someone whose heart is already weak because of another condition. Health experts think that most of the sudden cardiac deaths that occur every year (about 335,000) are due to v-fib.

The animation below shows ventricular fibrillation. Click the "start" button to play the animation. Written and spoken explanations are provided with each frame. Use the buttons in the lower right corner to pause, restart, or replay the animation, or use the scroll bar below the buttons to move through the frames.

The animation shows how disorganized electrical signals in the heart's ventricles can cause them to pump abnormally and quiver.

Torsades de pointes (torsades) is a type of v-fib that causes a unique pattern on an EKG (electrocardiogram). Certain medicines or imbalanced amounts of potassium, calcium, or magnesium in the bloodstream can cause this condition.

People who have long QT syndrome are at higher risk for torsades. People who have this condition need to be careful about taking certain antibiotics, heart medicines, and over-the-counter medicines.

Information provided by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

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  Atrial fibrillation
  Supraventricular tachycardia
  Ventricular tachycardia
  Sudden cardiac death prevention
  Sudden cardiac arrest
  Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
  Heart arrhythmias
  Heart rhythm disturbances
  Congestive heart failure