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Early Defibrillator After Heart Attack May Not Pay Off
Date:10/7/2009

European study finds no survival difference for those with, without device

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Implanting a defibrillator in the first weeks after a heart attack does not improve survival, a major European study shows.

Fewer deaths from sudden cardiac arrest occurred among those given the devices, which shock the heart into beating again. But, the overall death rate was about the same as for those who did not get defibrillators in the 40 days after a heart attack, the researchers reported.

The study results parallel those of a smaller American trial, said Dr. Gerhard Steinbeck, professor of medicine and chairman of internal medicine at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich and lead author of a report in the Oct. 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

One reason for a second study was that the American trial "might have been a false-negative trial signaled by a relatively small sample size and design flaws," Steinberg said.

But the European study was not done to prove or disprove the earlier trial, which was reported on in 2004, he said. "For many years, these two studies were running parallel," Steinbeck said.

The European trial enrolled 898 of 62,944 people treated for heart attacks. About half had defibrillators implanted, while the other half were given standard treatment, without defibrillators.

In an average follow-up of 37 months, 116 of the defibrillator recipients and 117 of those given standard treatment died. Though there were 27 deaths from sudden cardiac arrest in the defibrillator group, compared with 60 in the standard-treatment group, the overall mortality rate was about the same because of the higher incidence of non-sudden cardiac deaths in the defibrillator group -- 68, versus 39 in the standard-treatment group.

The new results are more firmly based than the earlier findings, Steinbeck said. "We can state that we have incl
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