Luce Heart Center in Macon providing new option for implantable defibrillators

A few years ago, Patricia Holt might have been in trouble.

Diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the 39-year-old Macon woman was having difficulties with her traditional implantable defibrillator.

“One of the leads had come out, and I wasn’t getting the full effect” of the device that sends an electric pulse to the heart during arrhythmia, she said.

But a relatively new defibrillating device has eliminated that issue for patients like Holt. The Medical Center, Navicent Health, is currently the only hospital in the midstate that is using the Subcutaneous Implantable Defibrillator System, or S-ICD, a defibrillator that’s implanted under the patient’s skin and doesn’t require leads that run through the patient’s blood vessels.

The S-ICD was created by Boston Scientific and is the only device of its kind on the market, according to the company.

Traditional ICDs require at least one lead into or on the heart.

Dr. David Haithcock, clinical cardiac electrophysiologist at the Medical Center’s Albert Luce Heart Center, said because of the leads running through blood vessels, traditional ICD systems run a higher risk of infections and other complications than the S-ICD.

“It’s nice to have a life-saving apparatus and not to have to occupy the blood vessels,” he said. “Anytime you put a piece of metal in a blood vessel, there are risks. (The new system) can help avoid endocarditis and other infections. Infection complications are completely minimized.”

Defibrillators are different from pacemakers, Haithcock said. A pacemaker regulates a patient’s heartbeat, while a defibrillator shocks the heart if the heart’s electrical system malfunctions.

David Boss, a sales representative with Boston Scientific, said there have been 13 S-ICDs implanted at the heart center in Macon so far, with the first in March 2014.

Atlanta and Augusta are the only two other Georgia cities where a patient can get the device.

Haithcock said patients still have to be evaluated by their doctor to see if they are a good fit for an S-ICD, but he said he expects the device to grow in popularity.

It takes about an hour to implant either a traditional ICD or an S-ICD, and both usually require an overnight stay after the procedure, but Haithcock said the recovery time for the S-ICD is usually quicker.

Holt said she can attest that her recovery has been easier with the S-ICD.

“I had a different one before, and (the S-ICD) was a whole lot less recovery,” she said. “I don’t feel anything with it. I don’t feel as winded as I used to. You don’t even know that it’s there. There are no leads with it, and I didn’t have to have my arm in a sling for six weeks.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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