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12-03-2018 | Heart Beat | Uitgave 5/2018 Open Access

Netherlands Heart Journal 5/2018

Atrial fibrillation mimicking ventricular fibrillation confuses an automated external defibrillator

Netherlands Heart Journal > Uitgave 5/2018
M. Hulleman, M. T. Blom, A. Bardai, H. L. Tan, R. W. Koster
A 47-year-old man suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. For scientific purposes, we analysed the electrocardiogram of the deployed automated external defibrillator (AED) [ 1]. Initially, the AED detected a non-shockable rhythm, caused by atrial fibrillation (AF) with high-degree atrioventricular block and slow ventricular escape rhythm (Fig.  1 panel A). During continued rhythm analysis, however, no escape beats occurred and a shock was delivered because isolated AF waves were erroneously interpreted as ventricular fibrillation (VF) (Fig.  1 panels B–C). In-hospital AF mimicking VF in monitored patients has been described before [ 2, 3], but ours is the first report of inappropriate AED therapy for AF mimicking VF during out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The sensitivity and specificity of AED algorithms is related to the defibrillation threshold as defined in the AED algorithm [ 4]. The defibrillation threshold in the AED in this case report was 0.08 mV, which is lower than other AEDs where it ranges from 0.1 to 0.2 mV. An amplitude below the threshold is considered asystole. In this case the AF waves were between 0.08 and 0.2 mV, interpreted as ‘fine’ VF.
It is important to recognise that in current clinical practice we do not routinely retrieve and analyse AED electrocardiograms, and AED shocks are generally used as a proxy for VF. This practice may result in treatment errors. Clearly, AED electrocardiograms should always be analysed to allow for correct clinical decision-making.


We are grateful for the cooperation of the Airport Medical Services in the recording of this case.


M. Hulleman is supported by a grant from the Netherlands Heart Foundation (grant 2013T034). M.T.B. and H.L.T. are supported through ESCAPE-NET, a project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 733381. R.W. Koster is supported by a significant unconditional grant of Physio Control Inc, Redmond WA for the data collection in the ARREST studies.

Conflict of interest

M. Hulleman, M.T. Blom, A. Bardai, H.L. Tan and and R.W. Koster declare that they have no competing interests.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://​creativecommons.​org/​licenses/​by/​4.​0/​), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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Netherlands Heart Journal

Het Netherlands Heart Journal wordt uitgegeven in samenwerking met de Nederlandse Vereniging voor Cardiologie en de Nederlandse Hartstichting. Het tijdschrift is Engelstalig en wordt gratis beschikbaa ...

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