Shocking the Heart when Needed

Protecta implantable defibrillator for patients with arrhythmia, reducing sudden cardiac attacks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Defibrillators are placed inside patients to correct heart rhythms that are too fast, too slow, or irregular. Many defibrillators in use today shock patients' hearts when they don't need it. Now, the FDA has approved a new implantable tool to fix this problem.

The new implantable defibrillator only gives a shock when it recognizes life-threatening arrhythmia. Older implantable defibrillators have caused as many as 20 percent of patients to experience unnecessary shocks to the heart. This new defibrillator can improve the quality of life of arrhythmia patients who face a very high risk of sudden cardiac death.

dailyRx Insight: New defibrillator shocks your heart back into action only when your life is at risk.

Computer tests have shown that the new defibrillator - manufactured by Medtronic, Inc., headquartered in Minneapolis, and sold under the name Protecta - may leave 98 percent of patients free of unnecessary shocks one year after the device is implanted. After five years, 92 percent of patients may be free of unnecessary shocks.

These findings are good for the 20 percent of arrhythmia patients who receive shocks in situations when their life is not on the line. More often than not, patients who are shocked when they don't need it have to visit the hospital or emergency room, which not only costs money but also is a major inconvenience.

According to Pat Mackin, president of the Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management business and senior vice president at Medtronic, "The Protecta family of devices addresses one of physicians' top needs: allowing them to better serve patients by providing devices that are designed to deliver a shock only needed to save a life."

Sudden cardiac death is the result of cardiac arrest, which is different than heart attack. During a heart attack, the bloodflow to the heart is interrupted, but the heart usually keeps beating. In cardiac arrest, however, the heart stops pumping blood.

Although victims of sudden cardiac death may or may not have heart disease, the most common cause of people dying from cardiac arrest is heart disease.

Heart disease (coronary artery disease, CAD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. CAD is primarily results from diet and habits, with the greatest risk factors coming from smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Genetics and family history also play a large part. The primary symptom of angina, commonly known as chest pain, occurs when the artery is almost completely blocked. Plaques made up of cholesterol and fibrous tissue lodge in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and restrict blood flow to the heart muscle. Complete closure or rupture of the plaque can cause a myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. Preventive surgical treatment is common, either by angioplasty and coronary stents (widening a blocked artery) or coronary artery bypass grafting (surgically replacing a damaged coronary artery with another one from the body).Management consists of a host of different medications for high blood pressure (diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors), and cholesterol control (statins like Lipitor, Crestor) as well as secondary measures such as daily aspirin, anti-platelet medication (Plavix), and exercise. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 29, 2011
Last Updated:
March 29, 2011