THURSDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- With summer approaching, researchers caution that swimming pools may pose a risk to patients with irregular heartbeats who've received implantable defibrillators.
The issue: a danger that electrical currents linked to standard pool utilities such as lighting may "leak," causing a defibrillator to misread the status of a patient's heart.
Implanted cardioverter defibrillators continuously monitor and control a patient's heart rhythm.
"How common this is, we don't know," said Dr. John Day, second vice president of the Heart Rhythm Society, a group representing arrhythmia specialists. "It's quite possible that there's underreporting going on, because when we see patients and we see noise recorded on their device we can't account for where it's coming from."
The concern stems from a few recent incidents that have been documented. In two cases, people with defibrillators experienced device misreadings while in a private family or hotel pool, and in another two cases, people experienced unwarranted shocks from their defibrillators while in public pools.
The cases all involved younger arrhythmia patients between the ages of 8 and 23. However, the investigators said there's no reason to believe that patients of all ages would not face a similar risk if they had such devices.
"I don't want to be an alarmist, because I do think we would have heard about this sort of thing happening much more often than we have if it were a really widespread problem," said study lead author Dr. Daniel Shmorhun, a pediatric cardiologist-electrophysiologist with Children's Cardiology Associates, an affiliate of the Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin.
"The nice thing about defibrillators is that they put a time-stamp on all activity," he noted. "So we were able to ask questions and delve into this after two patients came in with
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