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Forsyth using new heart defibrillator

November 01
00:00 2012

Forsyth Medical Center is one of just two hospitals in the state of North Carolina to offer patients at risk of sudden cardiac arrest a new life-saving device that can shock the heart muscle to restore normal rhythm. The device, a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD), is the first heart defibrillator that can be implanted under the skin without touching the heart. It was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 28.

“The recent approval of this device has introduced a new level of technology when it comes to defibrillators,” said Dr. Michael Drucker, a cardiac electrophysiologist. “Forsyth Medical Center was among 28 clinical study sites for the device, and now we’re excited to be among the first hospitals in the country to offer this to patients who are at risk of sudden cardiac arrest.”

The S-ICD uses a lead that is implanted just under the skin along the bottom of the rib cage and breast bone. The small, battery-powered device constantly monitors a person’s heart rhythm and delivers a shock to the heart (similar to external defibrillator paddles used by paramedics) to restore the rhythm when it senses the heart is beating dangerously fast (tachycardia) or chaotically (sudden cardiac arrest). Because the lead is placed under the skin rather than through a vein into the heart, a physician can implant the device without accessing a patient’s blood vessels or heart and without the need for fluoroscopy (X-ray).

“Some patients with life-threatening heart arrhythmias were not candidates for a routine ICD because of the implant procedure,” said Dr. Drucker. “This new S-ICD System doesn’t require placing leads directly into the heart, and it gives us a new option for these patients.”

About 850,000 Americans are at risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Arrhythmia, an irregular or abnormal heartbeat, results from a problem with the electrical system of the heart. Arrhythmia disrupts the blood flow and can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Only an electrical shock administered to the heart can reset the heart’s rhythm and restore normal blood flow through the body.

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