Defibrillators have been known to help save lives in situations when life lies in the balance of only seconds. One of the services offered at St. Vincent's HealthCare is the implantation of defibrillators, or ICDs, for patients who may benefit from this life-saving therapy.
- ICDs, or defibrillators, administer electrical shocks or painless pacing therapy to stop ventricular fibrillation (VF) – a lethal condition in which the heart quivers chaotically and pumps little or no blood. ICDs also stop ventricular tachycardia (VT) and other less problematic arrhythmias.
- ICDs also collect information for the physician to use in programming the device to the exact needs of the patient.
- ICDs are proven to be 98% effective in treating dangerous ventricular arrhythmias that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
- People who have intermittent ventricular tachycardia (VT), in which the heartbeat suddenly and without warning speeds up to dangerous levels.
- People who have survived an episode of sudden cardiac arrest.
- People who have a family history of sudden cardiac arrest.
- People who have survived a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and have impaired pumping function in the lower chambers (ventricles).
- People who are diagnosed with heart failure.
- Implantation of an ICD takes only about one hour, and sometimes can be done on an outpatient basis.
- Implantation is not major surgery. A physician injects local anesthesia and makes an incision about 4 inches long in the upper chest. The ICD is inserted and the leads are maneuvered through a vein into the heart. The physician programs the ICD and tests it before closing the incision.
- Modern ICDs are highly sophisticated and designed to ensure that impulses are delivered only when needed. Today’s devices often deliver “pain-free,” rhythm-regulating therapy without the patient being aware of it.
- ICDs will effectively guard against sudden cardiac arrest for up to approximately seven years, depending on the model of the device and the individual patient use.