Wearable defibrillator can prevent death in people with arrhythmias
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Date posted: 13/11/2011
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Health

A wearable defibrillator can prevent sudden death in people with dangerous heart arrhythmias, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2011.

Wearable cardioverter defibrillators are used by people who may be at higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest, including those with weakened heart function, awaiting cardiac transplant or with a condition that prevents or delays them from receiving an implanted defibrillator.

The device monitors heart rhythm, emits alarms if a serious arrhythmia occurs, delivers an electric shock to the heart if needed and alerts bystanders to help if the heart's electrical activity has stopped.

About 5,000 patients are using wearable defibrillators at any one time, usually for about 60 days, said Vincent N. Mosesso Jr., M.D., professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study.

"In these patients, the wearable defibrillator is a non-invasive 'insurance policy' against sudden arrest during their vulnerable period," he said.

Researchers gathered heart rhythm records and calls about shocks from a registry of 14,475 patients with wearable defibrillators listed from 2007 through 2009. Of those, 185 (about 1 percent) received an appropriate shock and 91.6 percent survived one or more episodes of ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, the most common abnormal rhythms during cardiac arrest.

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