Defibrillator breakthrough alleviates need for wires

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Researchers have done away with the need of placing a lead in the veins of the upper chest of patients who get fitted with the implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for cardiac arrhythmias by developing a new subcutaneous ICD that works without wires.

The first ever S-ICD was implanted in a patient in British Columbia by doctors at St. Paul’s Hospital, in collaboration with Cardiac Services BC and a group of physicians from around the province.

Dr. Jamil Bashir, cardiac surgeon and director of the laser lead extraction program at St. Paul’s explain the challenges of implantable defibrillators as being the invasiveness of the procedure.

Dr Bashir pegs the new S-ICD as a ‘paradigm shift’ that has paved way for delivering life-saving shocks to the heart without having to place a wire in the blood vessels. He adds that because the heart and blood vessels are untouched, the new ICD eliminates the potential for blood vessel injury while also preserving the patient’s vein for the future.

The new devices monitors the patient’s heartbeat and delivers a potentially life-saving shock that disrupts a fast heart rhythm and resets the heart. Unlike the conventional ICDS, the S-ICD uses electrodes placed just under the skin and not in the heart, leaving the heart and veins untouched. The device delivers a shock across the chest wall with the heart positioned in between.

The S-ICD provides defibrillation therapy for the treatment of life-threatening ventricular tachyarrhythmias. It is a promising new device because the absence of an intracardiac lead means the need for complicated surgeries to extract failed leads is avoided. This complication occurs in about 1 in 200 patients every year.

“To be the age that I am, relatively young for heart issues, it allows you to not be at risk for that invasive lead removal or lead extraction with traditional ICDs,” said McLellan.