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May 09, 2014

Growing Use of ICDs to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death

More patients may be eligible to receive implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, according to a scientific statement released by the American College of Cardiology Foundation and American Heart Association.

More patients may be eligible to receive implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), according to a statement jointly released by the Heart Rhythm Society, American College of Cardiology Foundation and American Heart Association.

Published today in the medical journals for those cardiology organizations, this statement was written by top heart experts to clarify exactly which types of patients may benefit from ICD use. ICDs are small devices placed in the chest or abdomen that use an electrical shock to correct a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm. Since ICDs were first introduced more than 40 years ago, this therapy has typically been reserved for patients with a dangerous abnormal heart rhythm or a history of sudden cardiac arrest. But experts believe ICDs may be considered in other patients who are also at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.

After reviewing the latest research, experts suggested that ICDs may be appropriate for many different types of patients, like those who haven’t suffered sudden cardiac arrest but are considered high-risk for this condition. In these scenarios, ICDs would be used for “primary prevention,” meaning they’re used proactively to help prevent a patient ever suffering sudden cardiac arrest.

However, authors explain that the purpose of this paper is not to provide treatment guidelines for specific patients. Instead, authors state that ICD use in these new sets of patients “can be considered,” mainly because there haven’t been any clinical trials testing use of ICDs on these populations.

Authors hope that this statement will help spark future research using ICDs in new patient populations. They also hope the paper will help get the word out that ICD use may be an option for new types of patients. Surveys have showed that few doctors would consider ICD use for primary prevention, but this paper could help open their eyes to new possibilities.
Read the full statement in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)?
  • An ICD is a device that uses electrical pulses or shocks to help patients with an irregular heartbeat maintain normal heart rhythm. Upon detecting an abnormal heart rhythm, ICDs send shocks to the heart to help restore normal rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac death.
  • Who needs an ICD?
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators are used to help prevent sudden cardiac death, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. Most patients with ICDs have a history of sudden cardiac arrest or have been diagnosed with a rapid heartbeat, called ventricular tachycardia. However, ICDs may also be considered for patients at high risk for sudden cardiac death.

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