Defibrillator technology doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to finding new and better ways to restart the heart. Sure, the paddle versions are still very much in use, but the options available now include implantable defibrillators, automatic external defibrillators, defibrillators for home use and defibrillators that are worn like vests. And with new technology come new challenges for those who care for that technology.

 The statistics are not heartening: About 300,000 Americans die of sudden cardiac arrest every year. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can help victims live, but only a defibrillator can restart the heart. Defibrillation offers a shock that interrupts the rapid heart rhythm to restore a normal rhythm. The longer the wait for paramedics to arrive with a portable defibrillator, the lower the victim’s chance of survival. Every minute waiting for the heart to be shocked into normal rhythm reduces the victim’s chance of survival by 10 percent, according to industry reports.

Heartfelt technology
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) has been called a “rescue squad in the chest.” It can administer electrical shocks to stop ventricular fibrillation. Today, ICDs can also monitor the electrical conduction system of the heart, watch for dangerous acceleration patterns and deliver electrical therapy when needed, and collect information for the physician to use in programming the device to meet the patient’s needs.

All that — in a device the size of a stopwatch.

The Gem III AT ICD from Medtronic Inc. (Redmond, Wash.) monitors electrical activity in the atrium and delivers therapies there to interrupt accelerating heartbeats and restore a more natural rhythm. The Marquis DR dual-chamber ICD, also from Medtronic, received FDA approval in March 2002 and is its most popular ICD, according to the company.

New technology has enabled defibrillators to become more user-friendly, as well.

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