Benefits Of Defibrillator Implant: Risk Factors And Cost

A defibrillator implant is used to treat irregular heart rhythms. Though a pacemaker can be used, which ensures that the heart beats properly, an implanted defibrillator is another bigger device which can be used to prevent death from cardiac arrest.

Unlike a pacemaker which only works when it is needed by restoring proper heart rate, a defibrillator works all the time. The defibrillator stimulates the heart to beat by giving shocks to the heart from time to time. In addition to regulating the heart beat, an implanted defibrillator prevents the normal cardiac rhythms from being too fast or too slow.

What Are The Benefits Of Defibrillator Implant?

An electrophysiology device, defibrillator helps prevent death due to cardiac arrest. The device sends out shock waves, which stimulate the heart and thereby stimulate heart beats. In addition to stimulating the production of new beats, the defibrillator also helps in regulating the rhythms of the heart beats. It controls the heart rate and prevents the heart from beating either too fast or too slow.

A defibrillator is a reliable device. Over the past three decades, there have been considerable advances in the domain of electrophysiology technology. Defibrillators have been in use since the early part of the 1980s.

However, evidence suggests that the device can malfunction, although that is relatively rare, and is often associated with failure of appropriate programming according to the patients need.

Risks Of Defibrillator Implantation

The use of implanted defibrillator has certain limitations and is often associated with some risks, though no serious limitations of the use of the device are observed. Most of the problems with the use of the device are observed during the first few weeks of implantation,

  • The device can malfunction in the presence of a strong electrical or magnetic field. Individuals working in power plants, car manufacturers, etc. are regularly exposed to high magnetic fields which can result in some problems of malfunction.
  • Implanted defibrillators are installed to regularize cardiac rhythms and prevent death. However in serious conditions of arrhythmia, individuals may experience dizziness, syncope and lightheadedness.
  • The use of defibrillators in athletes is also often associated with serious complication. Heavy weight lifting may cause a crack or damage to the leads and can hamper the functioning of the device. The device can also be affected by motion and is not recommended in runners or other sport athletes.
  • Often, implanted defibrillators are associated with the risk of infection, like any other form of implant. In case the defibrillator gets infected, it would be required to remove it surgically. Often the infection can take up to two months to clear up and an individual may require an external defibrillator at this time.

Cost Of Defibrillator Implant

There is considerable amount of conflict of who is an ideal candidate for a defibrillator implant. In a recent study conducted at Duke University which evaluated over 112000 patients who underwent implant surgery, it was observed that 22 % of these implants were not required or were outside the recommended guidelines for implantation of defibrillators.

Estimates suggest that the entire procedure including the cost of the device is approximately $35,000 in the United States. Considering the high cost of defibrillator implant surgery in United States (which is often not covered under insurance), several Americans explore the option of medical tourism, to go abroad and seek medical care at one-tenth the cost in United States.

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