Patients with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator shouldn’t shy away from physical activity, according to a recent analysis that shows exercise training improves fitness and reduces ICD shocks in heart failure patients.
Published in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, this study looked at the safety and effectiveness of exercise training in patients with ICDs.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, often referred to as ICDs, are small devices that monitor heart rate and use an electrical shock to correct abnormal heart rhythm. They’re often used in those at high risk of sudden cardiac arrest, such as patients with heart failure or an abnormal heart rhythm.
While ICDs are life-saving, experts have noticed a downside to their use. Some patients with ICDs worry that exercise could trigger an abnormal heart rhythm or a painful, unnecessary ICD shock. So rather than ICD patients increasing physical activity, as doctors advise, many avoid exercise for fear of complications. However, avoiding exercise can have a negative impact on both heart health and quality of life.
To provide clarity on the issue, researchers analyzed six trials that tested exercise training in patients with ICDs. Together, studies included more than 1,600 patients with heart failure and ICDs.
The trials tested various exercise programs ranging from two months to two years, while tracking patient outcomes.
Overall, researchers found that patients participating in exercise training had significantly better fitness levels than those receiving standard care. They also found that patients participating in exercise training were less likely to experience ICD shocks than those in the control group. In other words, regular exercise may reduce likelihood of ICD shocks, rather than increase it.
Experts hope that findings help ease common fears and encourage more patients with ICDs to engage in regular physical activity. Experts also hope that findings will promote increased use of cardiac rehabilitation after ICD implantation. Currently, many insurers don’t cover exercise training after patients receive an ICD. Based on findings, it’s clear that exercise training and continued physical activity may benefit both health and quality of life in patients with ICDs.