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Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator

Overview :

According to the American College of Cardiology, more than 80,000 Americans currently have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator; 17,000 of these were implanted in 1995 alone. The battery-powered device rescues the patient from a life-threatening arrhythmia by rapid pacing and/or delivering electrical shock(s) to suspend heart activity and then allow it to initiate a normal rhythm. Before the development of the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, most people who experienced ventricular fibrillation and were not near a hospital with a well equipped emergency team died within minutes.

The implantable cardioverter-defibrillator is like a mini computer connected to the patient's heart. Newer models weigh less than 10 ounces and can be implanted beneath the skin of the chest in the pectoral region, without major surgery. A lead from the device is then inserted into the heart through a vein. The procedure is performed in an operating room under general anesthesia. Earlier versions of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators were implanted in the abdomen and required open-chest surgery to connect the electrodes to the left and right ventricles.

The implantable cardioverter-defibrillator is set above the patient's exercise heart rate. Once the device is in place, many tests will be conducted to ensure that the device is sensing and defibrillating properly. The newer implantable cardioverter-defibrillators last seven or eight years. Technology and procedures continue to evolve.

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