01709 599 222

Which heart conditions require a defibrillator?

Published on 7th February 2023

Our latest insight documents which heart conditions require a defibrillator

Various health issues can cause a person’s heart to beat in an abnormal rhythm, potentially requiring a defibrillator for treatment. These may include slow or fast beating as well as irregular rhythms.

The most common type of heart condition requiring a defibrillator is ventricular fibrillation (VF), which produces chaotic electrical activity in the heart’s lower chambers. This leads to an uncoordinated contraction, preventing blood from being pumped through the body efficiently. Without treatment, VF can lead to death within minutes. Other heart conditions that may require an AED include the following;

Ventricular tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is a type of abnormal heart rhythm in which the heart’s lower chambers beat too fast. If untreated, VT can lead to cardiac arrest and death. An AED is used to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm and restore effective circulation to the body.

Pulseless Electrical Activity

Pulseless electrical activity (PEA) is an abnormal heart rhythm due to a lack of electrical stimulation. This can be caused by hypoxia, electrolyte imbalances, or medications blocking the heart’s electrical system.

The heart may still be beating but not efficiently enough to create a pulse or deliver oxygen-rich blood to the body. PEA often occurs after cardiac arrest and can lead to death if not treated quickly with an AED.

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. It occurs when the coronary arteries become blocked due to a buildup of fatty deposits, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. This can lead to a heart attack and cardiac arrest if not treated in a timely manner.


Cardiomyopathy is a group of diseases that affect the heart muscle. These can cause it to become weak, preventing the heart from pumping blood effectively. Cardiomyopathies can include hypertrophic (thickening) cardiomyopathy and dilated (enlargement) cardiomyopathy, amongst others. An AED may be required to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm and restore effective circulation.

Heart attack

A heart attack occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked due to a buildup of fatty deposits, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart muscle. This can lead to arrhythmia and cardiac arrest if not treated in time.

Valvular heart disease

Valvular heart disease is when one or more of the heart’s four valves becomes damaged or diseased. Infections, aging, and congenital defects can cause it. The damaged valve may cause an irregular heartbeat, resulting in reduced blood flow to the body, increasing the risk of cardiac arrest.

Congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease is a type of heart defect present at birth. It may affect various parts of the heart, including the valves, walls and vessels. Congenital defects can lead to abnormal rhythm disturbances requiring AED treatment.

What steps can help prevent SCA?

Certain lifestyle factors can increase the risk of SCA and should be avoided as much as possible. These include smoking, excessive drinking and an unhealthy diet high in fat, sodium and cholesterol. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and quitting smoking can reduce SCA risk. Regular check-ups with your doctor are important to ensure any existing heart conditions can be monitored and managed.

It is important for those with heart conditions or at risk of developing one to be aware of the symptoms and have access to a defibrillator in an emergency. If you have any concerns about your health, it is best to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider.

Article Sources: