No need for leads! Wireless heart help

Each year more than 300,000 people die in the U.S. from cardiac arrest. Some hearts beat too slow, others' too fast. Now, a new type of shock therapy is helping save hearts.

This is a good day for Merle Honey. Today he's being released from the hospital as one of the first people in the U.S. to have a new defibrillator implanted in his chest.

"I have had a lot of problems with this old ticker," says Merle Honey a cardiac patient.

Merle suffers from a dangerously fast heartbeat.

"My heart takes off on a run,” explains Honey. “It races away."

A traditional defibrillator, or ICD, was implanted a few years ago. His original defibrillator was put in the left side of his chest. A wire was snaked into one of the veins, under his collar bone and into his heart. Merle's wire caused a life-threatening infection and had to be removed.

"This new defibrillator is put underneath the skin, lower down in the chest and has a wire that goes just outside the chest wall and up the sternum," explains Jordan Prutkin, MD, Cardiologist at the Harborview Medical Center University of Washington in Seattle, WA.

Wiping out or reducing the chance of complications from the traditional wire, such as infection or puncturing the lung or the heart.

"There is nothing that is going into any of the blood vessels, and nothing that is going into the heart itself," says Dr. Prutkin.

The new SICD keeps track of the heart. A normal heart beats 50 to 90 times a minute. If Merle's heart beats between 180 and 220, it tries to determine if the situation is life-threatening and will shock him.

"He is going to feel it,” says Dr. Prutkin. “It is going to feel like getting kicked in the chest."

After a little heart to heart with his doctor, Merle's heading home without any worries or wires.

This new SICD is not for everyone. Unlike the traditional ICD's, there is no pacing capabilities. So if the heart starts to beat too slow it cannot bring it back up to speed.

No need for leads! Wireless heart help
REPORT #1956

CARDIAC ARREST: When someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest, they have a loss of heart function which can lead to sudden cardiac death; the biggest cause of natural death in the United States. Cardiac arrest is caused by a malfunction in the electrical system to the heart causing the heart to beat irregularly. When the heartbeat becomes too fast or too slow, blood is not delivered throughout the body to important organs such as the lungs and brain. Often times people in cardiac arrest will lose consciousness because there is not enough blood and oxygen reaching the brain. (Source:

SIGNS: If a person goes into cardiac arrest, it is important to get immediate medical help and call 911, or else the person could die. Although in more than half of all sudden cardiac arrest cases there are no symptoms prior to the actual cardiac arrest, here are a few signs that sometimes precede cardiac arrest:
* Shortness of breath
* Dizziness
* Chest Pain
* Vomiting
* Heart palpitations
When cardiac arrest does occur the person may lose consciousness, have no pulse and stop breathing. CPR can help oxygen reach the lungs and brain while an electric shock to the chest using a defibrillator will help restore a normal heart rhythm. (Source:

TREATMENT: After a person experiences a sudden cardiac arrest episode, there is a higher likelihood that they will have another. Treatments to help avoid another cardiac arrest include medication called beta-blockers, which prevent unusually fast or irregular heart rhythms, and corrective heart surgery to help people with issues like congenital heart defects and heart muscle disease that may be the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest. A treatment used to lower the risk of death if another cardiac arrest occurs is the implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD. This device is implanted in patients and monitors and controls abnormal heart rhythms. (Source:

For More Information, Contact:

Jordan M. Prutkin, MD, MHS, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Washington University Medical Center

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