Best Life: Future of cardiac care

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 7:31 AM CST
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CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – This year, more than 356,000 people in the U.S. will experience a cardiac arrest – their heart will just stop.

It’s caused by arrhythmias that prevent the heart from pumping blood. Nearly 90% of them are fatal.

Thousands of people will have a pacemaker or a defibrillator implanted to shock their heart back into action, but both come with complications. Now, new technology may prove to be a lifesaver for people who suffer a cardiac arrest.

Eighty-four-year-old Joseph “Joe” Mulligan lives and breathes for the Fighting Irish! As a 1959 alum, Joe gives tours of the campus, sings in the choir, and of course, never misses a game.

It was 10 years ago when something terrible happened.

“The weekend of the Notre Dame/Navy game, and I got up that morning and felt terrible,” said Mulligan.

That was the first sign of his first cardiac arrest. Five years later, it happened again.

“When the heart stops pumping blood, there’s no blood going to the brain. And within about five to 10 seconds, the patient will collapse,” said Bradley Knight, MD, Electrophysiologist at Northwestern Medicine’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.

Traditionally, Joe would be given an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or ICD — it uses thin wires, or leads, that are placed directly into the heart to deliver electric currents if his heart stops again.

“They’re electrical cables surrounded by insulation. And over time, these leads have the potential to break or to fail,” said Knight.

Dr. Knight instead used a first-of-its-kind extravascular implantable cardioverter defibrillator or EV ICD. The difference: it doesn’t place wires directly into the heart.

“A major advantage of that approach is that the lead is now under the bone, on top of the bone. The energy it takes to shock the heart is significantly lower,” Dr. Knight says.

A worldwide clinical trial found the EV ICD was 98 percent effective. Ninety-two percent of patients experienced no major complications. The new ICD lasts up to 11 years, compared to eight years for the traditional one, using less electricity, with less risk of blockage of veins and blood infections.

“Most patients who receive an appropriate shock for a cardiac arrest are lifesaving. They would not have survived that event without an implantable defibrillator,” said Dr. Knight.

Using cellular data or Wi-Fi, the EV ICD also tracks if the device is ever used. Last year, Joe didn’t even realize it, but his heart stopped again. The EV ICD shocked his heart back into motion and alerted his doctor.

“So far, it’s saved my life once,” said Mulligan.

And now, Mulligan. is looking forward to many more games – celebrating his team and his life.

The EV ICD is not yet FDA-approved. Medtronic has received approval for a continued access study and hopes to make it available to all patients who need an implantable defibrillator within the next few months.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Matt Goldschmit, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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