Dr. Campbell: Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Dr. Kevin Campbell_273

Sudden cardiac death accounts for nearly 500,000 deaths in the United States each year. Most of the time, sudden cardiac death is due to abnormal heart rhythms known as ventricular fibrillation.

Most commonly, these heart rhythms are related to conditions which weaken the heart such as coronary artery disease (heart attacks) and are most often seen in middle-age and older adults. However, there are some conditions that can affect younger patients and can cause weakened hearts-known as a cardiomyopathy.

Patients who have a cardiomyopathy (weakened heart) are at risk for sudden death. When patients are identified as being at risk for sudden cardiac death they must be implanted with an implantable defibrillator in order to protect them from sudden death.

In many cases however, guidelines dictate that we must wait for a period of months to see if the heart function improves on medicine before performing a surgical procedure. Because these patients remain at risk for sudden death during the waiting period, a Zoll Life Vest is a great option to keep the patient safe

Sudden Cardiac Death

Sudden cardiac death occurs when the heart stops-most commonly it is a heart rhythm problem known as Ventricular Fibrillation. In this situation, the heart is no longer able to pump blood to the rest of the body and death occurs within minutes unless and electrical shock is applied to reset the heart rhythm. Most commonly, the heart rhythm is the result of a weakened heart muscle called a cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy can be caused by numerous things—most commonly is heart attacks and blockages in the heart arteries. Other types of cardiomyopathies can be caused by viral illnesses, toxic exposures and some are idiopathic

The treatment is all about prevention. In patients at risk for sudden cardiac death, an implantable defibrillator is the best option for prevention. However, many patients have to undergo a waiting period prior to implantation of the ICD (defibrillator) and that is where the life vest comes in-bridges the gap and protects the patient.

The Zoll life vest

In patients who are at risk for sudden death, treatment guidelines indicate that we must first treat with medicines for a period of time in order to see if the cardiomyopathy is reversible. If it is reversible and improves with medicine they are no longer at risk and do not need and ICD. However, while this medical treatment period is occurring, they are still at risk. The Life Vest is a wearable defibrillator vest-it is worn 24 hours a day and measures heart rhythm activity. If sudden death occurs it will shock the patient externally and save their life.

The definitive treatment for those at risk for sudden death is the implantation of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). They are implanted through a small opening in the chest and a defibrillator wire is placed into the heart.

Once the ICD is implanted it monitors heart rhythm and will deliver a lifesaving shock when needed. The battery lasts 5 to 6 years and the device is permanent.

In patients at risk for sudden death, we know that we are able to reduce their risk for sudden death by 30 percent when we implant the ICD.To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.Catch Dr. Campbell on Mondays at 6:15 a.m. for #MedicalMondaysCopyright WNCN 2015. All rights reserved.

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