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How a small cardiac device can prevent sudden cardiac death

man clutching chest in pain during heart attack

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a growing problem in Singapore and around the world as the population ages and more people are living longer with heart disease. SCD is not a random occurrence – 75% of all SCD victims have either had a previous heart attack or coronary artery disease (CAD). People at greatest risk are those with reduced heart function and previous episodes of life-threatening arrhythmias. The good news is that SCD can be prevented if those with risk factors are adequately identified and treated.

The implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a tried and tested way in lowering the risk of SCD in heart disease patients. These are sophisticated cardiac devices that are inserted by cardiologists (heart specialists) in the operating theatre or in the cardiovascular laboratory. Several large international studies have conclusively shown that ICDs can lower the risk of SCD and increase survival rate in appropriately selected patients, including those who with reduced heart function who have yet to experience a life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms). After insertion of the ICD, the device continually monitors the patient’s heart rhythm and, upon detection of any anomaly, delivers either a small series of electrical impulses (called anti-tachycardia pacing) or an internal electrical shock to restore normal rhythm.

ICDs are inserted similarly with pacemakers and can also provide backup pacing to the heart if the heart rate is too slow. The procedure is usually done within 2 hours (under local or general anaesthetic) and patients typically stay one night at the hospital. After insertion, patients will need to have regular reassessment and checks with their cardiologist. For those who live further afield or for whom regular clinic visits are not convenient, a new technology called remote home monitoring allows the ICD to be checked remotely by the cardiologist without needing the patient to visit the clinic.

If you are concerned about your risk of sudden cardiac death, please consult with a cardiologist who can objectively assess your risk and determine the next appropriate course of action.

Take charge of heart health today. Make an appointment for a Heart Screening with Specialist Consultation at Gleneagles Hospital. To learn more, please visit our heart specialists or call the Gleneagles Patient Assistance Centre 24-hour Hotline at (65) 6575 7575.