Vest offers protection after a heart attack

More than 1.2 million Americans will have a heart attack this year. Up to 450,000 hearts will stop beating, causing death in minutes.

Now, something that's as easy to wear as clothes could help save your life.

Stacey Alcala had a heart attack, something she never thought would happen at age 29.

"I'm very active, eat right, best I can, exercise a lot,” she says.

But all of that did not stop her artery from tearing.

"The only thing that came to my head was, 'what could this do to my girls?'" she says.

Stacey survived and was sent home from the hospital with the first wearable defibrillator.

Heart attack survivors like Stacey are at a 12-percent increased risk for a sudden cardiac arrest the first three months following the attack.

This life vest offers immediate protection.

"The vest has electrodes that go on the surface of the skin that both record the heart's electrical activity like an EKG and can deliver an electrical shock, much like the paramedics would in an emergency situation,” says Dr. Brian DeVille, electrophysiologist at the Heart Hospital in Plano, TX

When a patient's heart stops beating, a warning is given. If the patient does not respond, the vest takes over.

It allows patients to go home faster from the hospital, feeling safer about the distance between them and help.

Stacey wore the life vest for six weeks, but soon after that, she was back to playing with her kids.

"Every moment I have with them now I try to make the best of it,” she says.

The life vest is used in heart attack patients whose heart muscle function has decreased 35 to 60 percent.

The life vest does not prevent a heart attack but treats cardiac arrest.


BACKGROUND: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 630,000 people died of heart disease in 2006. It caused 26 percent of deaths, which is more than one in every four people, in this country. According to the American Heart Association, about 1.2 million Americans will have a heart attack this year. Up to 450,000 will experience a cardiac arrest, according to the National Institutes of Health.

WHAT IS A HEART ATTACK? A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a section of heart muscle becomes blocked. If the flow of blood isn't restored quickly, the section of the heart muscle becomes damaged from lack of oxygen. This muscle begins to die. Treatment is most effective when started within one hour of the start of symptoms. Heart attacks occur most often as a result of a condition called coronary artery disease, where a fatty material called plaque builds up on the inside walls of the heart's arteries.

WHAT IS CARDIAC ARREST? Cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of heart function. The patient may or may not have heart disease. Sudden death can occur within minutes after symptoms appear. The most common reason for patients to die suddenly from cardiac arrest is heart disease. However, other factors like respiratory arrest, electrocution, drowning, choking and trauma can cause cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest can also occur without any known cause.

LIFE VEST: Patients who survive a heart attack have a 12 percent increased risk for a sudden cardiac arrest during the first three months following the event. Now, a new vest is offering them protection. LifeVest is the world's first wearable defibrillator. It's worn outside the body rather than being implanted in the chest. The device weighs only three pounds and continuously monitors the patient's heart to detect life-threatening, abnormal heart rhythms. If a life-threatening rhythm is detected and the patient is unconscious, the device delivers an electrical shock to restore normal rhythm. This typically happens within one minute. The device is FDA-approved, and according to its manufacturers, it has a 98 percent "first shock" success rate in treating patients for sudden cardiac arrest without requiring bystander intervention.

For More Information, Contact:
Susan Hall, Public Relations
Baylor Medial Centers
Plano, TX

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