New defibrillator may offer 24/7 surveillance without touching the heart

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Northwestern Memorial Hospital heart rhythm specialists have recently conducted the successful implantation of a Cameron Health S-ICD (Cameron Health subcutaneous implantable defibrillator) inside device a 34-year-old man’s chest.

But what makes the S-ICD different from other defibrillators is that it does not require X-ray assistance and the usual snaking of wires to the heart. In fact, the innovative device rests just beneath the surface of the skin and its components are positioned using the patient’s own anatomical landmarks.

“One of the greatest innovations about this new technology is that there are no leads touching the heart,” said Bradley Knight, director of cardiac electrophysiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “That’s a huge divergence from conventional defibrillators, where with every contraction of the heart the lead wires can bend.” When wires bend, Knight explained, “they can cause a wire fracture that could potentially send false signals to the defibrillator, causing the delivery of unnecessary shocks” and triggering life-threatening arrhythmias.

Knight added that in some cases the false signals could also cause the defibrillator not to pace or shock when it’s most crucial, discomforting news to the 100,000 Americans who are implanted with defibrillators every year.

The S-ICD system, however, is not plagued by the same problems. “The device’s wires sit in the middle of the chest, and don’t lead directly to the heart, so the chance of the wire getting fractured or dislodged and not working as they should is reduced,” said Knight.

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