Fibrillation (Atrial Fibrillation/Ventricular Fibrillation)

Fibrillation is a rapid, irregular twitching of the heart muscle tissue. In order to function as a pump, the muscle tissue if the heart must contract and relax in a smooth, coordinated manner. When the nervous tissue controlling the rate of contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle tissue is compromised through trauma, age or disease, the coordination of the muscle tissue is lost.

This condition may affect either of the two sets of chambers of the heart.

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  • Atrial fibrillation is the extremely rapid twitching of the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. When the atria cease to contract rhythmically, the ventricles do not receive a regular stimulus to trigger their contraction. This results in an inefficient pumping of the blood and in irregular pulse. Causes of this condition include many types of heart disease, such as coronary artery disease, hyperactivity of the thyroid gland, or alcohol abuse.
  • Ventricular fibrillation is similar to atrial fibrillation; however, it affects the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). This condition may have fatal results within minutes because the rapid, fluttering of the ventricles pumps little or no blood through the circulatory system of the body. This condition may be caused by coronary thrombosis, drugs such as digitalis, excessive diuretic use, or electric shock.

Atrial fibrillation is typically controlled by digitalis or other medications to bring the rhythm of the heart under control. When fibrillation is associated with thyroid disease, appropriate treatment of the thyroid is required. Ventricular fibrillation is an emergency condition that is treated as a cardiac arrest. Subjecting the heart to a controlled electrical shock with a defibrillator attempts to restore the regular heartbeat.