Defibrillation is a medical emergency procedure used to treat arrhythmias or heart rhythm disturbances. The defibrillation procedure uses an electric shock device or defibrillator.
An arrhythmia that requires defibrillation is when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.This is because the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) are beating rapidly past its normal limits until they appear to be vibrating. This condition is called ventricular fibrillation.
Another condition of arrhythmia that requires defibrillation is when there is insufficient amount of blood to pump and may leave the patient unconscious in some cases. This condition may be also caused by the ventricles that beat rapidly beyond normal limits – also known as pulseless ventricular tachycardia.
Pulseless ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia may be triggered by the following factors:
- Side effects of medications such as tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics and digoxin – which can cause poisoning or overdose. Other triggers may include the use of illegal drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
- Imbalance levels of electrolyte such as potassium, calcium and magnesium in the blood vessels
- Heart disorders such as congenital heart disease, history of heart attack, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and other heart arrhythmias.
How Defibrillation Works
Defibrillation works by sending an electric current to trigger contractions in the heart so that the heart stops then starts beating again in its steady rhythm. It is used to restore the heart’s main function to pump blood and drain it throughout the body.
In general, defibrillation should be performed along with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) quickly, then followed by intensive care. Although it can treat arrhythmias, defibrillation does not cure underlying causes of arrhythmias.
Defibrillation will work more effectively in patients who do not have severe heart disease or chronic health complications.
Cost Estimation for Defibrillation
The estimated cost of defibrillation varies depending on the hospital where the procedure was performed. To find out the estimated costs of defibrillation and other medical procedures in domestic and international hospitals, contact Smarter Health.
Defibrillation is an emergency procedure – meaning that it does not require any preparation. Since defibrillation is performed to reactivate heart function, anaesthesia is unnecessary.
Defibrillation will begin with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedure performed by the medical personnel while preparing a defibrillator or electric shock device. Then, electrodes from an electrocardiogram (ECG) will be placed on the patient’s chest area.
The two electrodes from the defibrillator will be smeared with a special gel and then placed on the patient’s upper right chest and lower left ribs.
The medical personnel will read the ECG results and make sure there is no pulse present. Defibrillation should not be performed for patients who still have a pulse as it can cause the heart to stop working completely.
The built-in defibrillator will perform an analysis of the patient’s heart rhythm and, if necessary, send an electric shock. After the electric shock is given, the defibrillator will re-analyze and if it is still needed, it will send an additional electric shock based on the patient’s condition.
Your doctor may take several steps after defibrillation is carried out – starting from monitoring the condition of the heart, your breathing patterns, to other vital functions.
Your doctor also may carry out further tests to check if the heart is damaged. Additional tests performed may include:
- 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac catheterization
From the test results, your doctor will determine the right treatment for you. If you have a skin burn, it will also be treated along with removing the gel from the skin.
Risks of Defibrillation
Defibrillation is a technique used in emergency medicine that can save your life. However, as with any other medical procedures, defibrillation comes with its own risks, such as:
- Skin burns
- Blood clots
- Other types of arrhythmias
- Myocardial necrosis (death of heart muscle tissue)