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Shock Fear May Curb Sex for People With Heart Devices
Date:11/14/2011

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- For people with implantable cardioverter defibrillators, the life-saving device may come at a cost: Fear of it firing a shock to the heart during sex drives some to avoid lovemaking altogether.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) are small devices placed in the chest or abdomen that shoot off electrical pulses when they detect potentially life-threatening, irregular heartbeats.

But shock-related anxiety can impede sexual performance, according to new research scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

These fears are warranted, said study author Dr. Steven Cook, director of adult congenital heart disease at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "It's a huge deal that no one talks about sexual function with these patients," Cook said.

ICDs can fire during sex or any other time that they sense a dangerous arrhythmia, Cook added. And the jolt can be frightening. He said that patients tell him the shock feels like "someone kicked you in the chest. It is a pretty intense sensation."

The new study included 151 men and women who had congenital heart disease, meaning a heart abnormality since birth. Of these, 41 had ICDs and an average age of 37. Those without an ICD averaged 32 years. Study participants rated their sexual function and depression via standardized tools, which included questions about confidence, satisfaction and arousal. Those individuals with ICDs also completed the Florida Shock Anxiety Scale, which measures fears about ICD-related shock.

Men with ICDs had sexual function scores similar to the ratings of men with mild erectile dysfunction (the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse).

The sexual function scores of women with and without ICDs showed little difference, suggesting men might be more affected b
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