Fine-tuning or rewiring the heart’s electrical system is improving cardiac function for millions of Americans, thanks to tiny devices planted under the skin in the upper chest.
“Generally ICT implantation is utilized in people who’s heart muscle function is very poor and statistically are at a high risk for a cardiac arrest, or in people who have already exhibited an episode where their heart stopped,” says Dr. Richard Chazal, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
The granddaddy of implantable devices is the pacemaker, which controls abnormal rhythms.
“A typical pacemaker simply can keep the heart from going too slowly, but if a person had their heart stop, the pacemaker usually won’t work. A defibrillator will provide that pacing function,” says Dr. Chazal.
Nowadays, medications are frequently used to act as a pacemaker and correct cardiac arrhythmias. But there is still need for implantable devices. Slightly larger than a pocket watch, is a defibrillator, which can fill two roles in one.
“A defibrillator will provide that pacing function, but also in someone with a really bad heart where the heart might actually stop, that defibrillator can sense that event and immediately shock the heart internally and return normal function,” says Dr. Chazal.
Re-synching the heart may be the proper tune-up for thousands of heart patients. The more complex pacemaker-defibrillator has been shown to prolong life in heart failure patients with mild symptoms.