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Wearable Defibrillators: ‘Reasonable’ Alternative to ICD for Some Heart Patients

Mar 29, 2016 04:10 AM EDT
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The American Heart Society has recently published an advisory in the journal Circulation for the use of a wearable automatic defibrillator as a "reasonable" alternative for the implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICD).

According to a Medical Xpress report, the wearable automatic defibrillator, like the ICD, is designed to monitor the heart for any signs of erratic rhythms that may result to a sudden cardiac death.

When erratic heart rhythms are detected, the device will provide an electric shock to return the heart to normal rhythms.

CBS News reported that the wearable automatic defibrillator is similar to a "fishing vest" that can be worn under clothes. It is powered by a laptop-sized battery and is connected to the body via electrodes.

The device will sound an alarm that gets louder and louder, and if the "false alarm" button is not pressed within a minute, it will respond to the erratic heart rhythm as life-threatening. Then, it will eject gel onto the wearer's chest then gives the patient a shock.

The device will then have to be replaced.

The American Heart Society advises the use of wearable automatic defibrillator for patients who have life-threatening arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms. These people are in need of an ICD but may not be able to undergo surgery to implant the device due to an infection or other contraindication to surgery.

Patients with heart failure waiting for a heart transplant can also benefit from the device, particularly if the waiting is short.

The only downside of the wearable automatic defibrillator is that it is chunky and uncomfortable to wear. But scientists are doing their best to remedy this problem.

"As with most new medical technologies, biomedical engineers are working to make them smaller, more lightweight and less burdensome," said Jonathan Paul Piccini, M.D., lead author of the advisory and a cardiac electrophysiologist at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, in a statement.

"One company is already developing a self-contained system in a large, self-adhesive plastic bandage that a wearer just sticks on their chest," he added.

Sudden cardiac deaths are accountable for nearly 300,000 deaths in the United States every year, according to American Heart Association.

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