Ventricular fibrillation causes a loss of consciousness in seconds. Without treatment, the brain doesn't get enough oxygen. A person will typically develop seizures and irreversible brain damage after approximately five minutes. Death soon follows.
Causes and Risk Factors
The most common cause of ventricular fibrillation is a lack of blood flow to the heart muscle due to coronary artery disease, such as occurs during a heart attack. Other causes include:
- Drugs that affect electrical currents in the heart (such as sodium or potassium channel blockers)
- Electrical shock
- Very low blood pressure, which can result from coronary artery disease and other disorders
- Very low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia)