2021 Jul 18. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–.
Cardiac defibrillation is the act of administering a transthoracic electrical current to a person experiencing one of the two lethal ventricular dysrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation (VF) or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT). Under Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) guidelines, pulseless VT and VF are treated the same.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 610,000 deaths occur annually in the United States from heart disease. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in both sexes. About half of these sudden deaths occur in the pre-hospital setting; of these, almost three-quarters happen in the home, and half of these are unwitnessed. In the adult patient, VF is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest.
The definitive treatment for VF is to perform electrical defibrillation. Defibrillation is highly effective in terminating VF when performed as close to the onset of VF as possible. When defibrillation is delayed, effectiveness is reduced by almost 10% per minute.
Adult victims of nontraumatic cardiac arrest who receive resuscitation attempts by emergency medical services have a rate of survival to hospital discharge of only 10.8%. In comparison, adult patients who develop cardiac arrest in a hospital have rates of survival to hospital discharge of up to 25.5%. This increased survival is due to defibrillation being performed closer to the onset of VF.