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Cardiac innovation at
Northwestern Memorial Hospital

New Defibrillator May Offer 24/7 Surveillance Without Touching the Heart

CHICAGO /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It's a familiar scene on most TV medical dramas: a patient is unconscious; CPR didn't work; someone yells, "All clear!" and the defibrillator paddles are applied to the person's chest in hopes the electric current shocks the heart back into action. In real life 350,000 Americans die of sudden cardiac arrest every year because they don't have implantable devices or defibrillators nearby at the time of the cardiac arrest. Northwestern Memorial Hospital heart rhythm specialists recently gave a 34-year-old man a makeshift paramedic-who's always on duty-inside of his chest by implanting a device that did not require X-ray assistance and the usual snaking of wires leading to the heart. In fact, the innovative device rests just beneath the surface of the skin and its components are positioned using the patient's own anatomical landmarks.

"One of the greatest innovations about this new technology is that there are no leads touching the heart," said Bradley Knight, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "That's a huge divergence from conventional defibrillators, where with every contraction of the heart the lead wires can bend. Bending can cause a wire fracture that could potentially send false signals to the defibrillator, causing the delivery of unnecessary shocks."

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Knight explained that the electric shockwaves of a defibrillator can stave off or stop sudden cardiac arrest. He added that patients liken the electric impulse to getting kicked in the chest by a horse. When unnecessary shocks are delivered, they not only give patients severe discomfort, they could also trigger life-threatening arrhythmias.

Knight added that in some cases the false signals could also cause the defibrillator not to pace or shock when it's most crucial, frightening news to the 100,000 Americans who are implanted with defibrillators every year. Time is of the essence to these patients, whose abnormal heart rhythms require urgent treatment to prevent sudden death.

"This device's wires sit in the middle of the chest, and don't lead directly to the heart, so the chance of the wire's getting fractured or dislodged and not working as they should is reduced," said Knight.

Cameron Health's S-ICD system device handed Rosario Ahon the peace of mind that had eluded her for more than a year. Her husband Carlos was diagnosed in 2009 with cardiomyopathy, a disease affecting 50,000 Americans which causes the heart to become enlarged and its muscles to weaken, decreasing the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently to the body. This disease put Carlos at an increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest, and Rosario feared her husband would be taken from her without warning.

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