Sudden Cardiac Arrest: A Biopsychosocial Approach to Patient Management of Ventricular Fibrillation and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators

  • Kari Kirian
  • Samuel F. Sears
  • Harry DeAntonio


Sudden cardiac arrest remains the single most common cause of death for adults in the Western world. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) affects approximately 350,000 Americans annually and is a significant health concern and risk (The American Heart Association 2007). These potentially life-threatening arrhythmias often begin as ventricular tachycardia (VT), a dangerously fast heart rhythm that originates in one of the ventricles that may decompensate into ventricular fibrillation (VF). Treatment for VF usually includes high-energy defibrillation from either an automatic external defibrillator (AED) or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) that restores proper heart rate and rhythm using high-energy electrical shock. Randomized controlled clinical trials have demonstrated superior mortality benefits of ICDs compared to medications for both primary and secondary prevention for patients at risk for VT/VF. The patient experiences of both spontaneous life-threatening arrhythmias and the treatment via high-energy shock from the ICD have prompted significant clinical and research attention to psychosocial factors (Stutts, Cross, Conti, & Sears, 2007). Biopsychosocial approaches to understanding and managing the risk of sudden cardiac arrest have included examination of psychosocial factors both as antecedents and as consequences to the experience of VF and the subsequent treatment by the ICD. The purpose of this chapter is to review the medical manifestation of ventricular fibrillation and the psychosocial factors of ventricular fibrillation and its treatment and suggest psychological intervention approaches for patients with VF/ICDs.


Ventricular Tachycardia Ventricular Fibrillation Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator Sudden Cardiac Arrest Automatic External Defibrillator 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kari Kirian
    • 1
  • Samuel F. Sears
    • 1
    • 2
  • Harry DeAntonio
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyEast Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, East Carolina Heart InstituteEast Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA

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