Defibrillators are standard equipment in most medical facilities. Physicians use them to deliver an electric pulse to the heart to restore a normal rhythm during cardiac arrest. In addition, automated portable defibrillators are available for use outside hospitals and clinics. There is even a model small enough to fit inside your body, providing 24/7 monitoring and support for your heart.
The specialists at Premier Cardiology Consultants offer advanced cardiac care to New Yorkers from state-of-the-art locations in New Hyde Park, Lake Success, Rochdale, Richmond Hill, Forest Hills, and Jamaica. Check these facts about when these skilled cardiologists may recommend a defibrillator, which heart arrhythmias they can correct, and their benefits following a cardiac arrest.
How do defibrillators work?
A defibrillator is a medical device that delivers an electrical current to the heart during cardiac arrest. The current in the device can restore a normal rhythm in someone without a pulse (ventricular tachycardia). Defibrillators can also save your life when you’re experiencing ventricular fibrillation. This abnormal rhythm (arrhythmia) causes the lower heart chambers to quiver rather than beat steadily.
Both conditions affect the heart’s ability to deliver blood to your body, and in either case, death can occur within moments without restoration of a normal heart rhythm. However, using a defibrillator when unnecessary can cause a life-threatening arrhythmia.
What are the different types of defibrillators?
Defibrillators are either external or internal. External defibrillators used in hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units are adjustable, offering your physician several options regarding the timing and strength of the electrical current. Your doctor triggers the pulse, delivered via handheld pads, once they’re positioned correctly on your chest.
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are lightweight, portable units that, once you’ve attached sticky pads to the individual’s chest, control the delivery of the electrical current.
AEDs are designed for use by individuals without medical training other than learning how to place the pads and interpreting step-by-step instructions provided aloud by the machine. In addition, an AED has built-in safety measures that prevent it from delivering a current unless a shock is necessary.
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a battery-powered internal device. About the size of a pocketwatch, the ICD is surgically implanted in the chest or under the arm. An ICD monitors your heart rhythm 24/7 and automatically delivers electrical pulses to the heart when it senses ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.
The ICD is programmed to produce a low-energy electric pulse that speeds up or slows an abnormal heart rate. For fast, irregular beats, the pulse is stronger. In addition, the device can switch from low-energy pulses to high-energy shocks to restore normal rhythm if necessary.
Who benefits from an implanted cardioverter defibrillator?
A heart attack may develop over hours, causing pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms that signal reduced blood flow to the heart. It’s definitely a medical emergency, but you often have time to seek care.
On the other hand, cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and causes you to lose consciousness very quickly as blood stops flowing to the brain. As a result, those around you may not realize you’re having difficulty. Even if others are aware, there may not be enough time to access emergency services.
Thus, your specialist at Premier Cardiology Consultants may recommend an ICD if you have a severely weakened or damaged heart and a higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest due to:
- Previous cardiac arrest
- Heart failure
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle)
- Long QT syndrome
- Ventricular fibrillation
- Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD)
- Heart valve disease
Many people report that a high-energy shock delivered by an ICD feels like being kicked in the chest. However, the discomfort only lasts for a second.
Schedule a visit at Premier Cardiology Consultants today for more information about the benefits of an ICD.