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New Software for Defibrillators Lowers Risk of Unnecessary Shocks
Date:9/28/2010

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) have saved the lives of tens of thousands of Americans at risk for sudden cardiac death because of serious heart rhythm abnormalities.

But these medical devices have gotten a bad reputation in recent years, mainly because the electrical wires, or leads, that connect the ICD to the heart can sometimes fracture, causing patients to unnecessarily receive painful shocks.

Now, a new study suggests that doctors can cut the relative risk of accidental shocks in half simply by downloading upgraded software into the ICD during a routine office visit.

The Lead Integrity Alert (LIA) software checks the device for suspicious electrical signals six times a day, and if problems are detected, alerts the patient with an audible beep every four hours, according to the study, which was published in the Sept. 27 issue of Circulation.

In contrast, standard ICD software usually monitors the device for signs of fractures and other mechanical problems just once a day, and notifies the patient of any abnormalities with a single alert at the same time every day.

The biggest advance, said study author Dr. Charles Swerdlow, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, is that LIA software can detect electrical changes that signal a wire fracture and recalibrate the device to delay an inappropriate shock from occurring.

"The software basically makes the devices less trigger-happy," said Swerdlow, who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles' David Geffen School of Medicine.

The study was funded by Medtronic Inc., which developed the LIA software for use with the company's ICDs that are connected to a specific type of lead that has been particularly prone to fractures. (That lead, known as Sprint Fidelis, was removed
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