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Defibrillator Implant Risks

Defibrillator Implant Risks

A defibrillator implant surgery involves the implantation of an electronic device on the heart. This device helps in restoring the heart rhythm, thereby lowering the risk of a cardiac arrest. In this article, we will find out how this device works and look into the various defibrillator implant risks and complications if any.
Smita Pandit
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018
The human heart is a very important organ of the circulatory system. While the pumping mechanism of the heart helps in supplying oxygenated blood to various parts of our body, the rhythmic contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle is dependent on the discharge of electrical impulses by the network of nerve fibers. If these nerve fibers are unable to discharge the electrical impulses properly, the heart rhythm becomes abnormal.
When the abnormalities in the discharge of electrical impulses give rise to irregularities in the heart rhythm, one is diagnosed with a medical condition called arrhythmia. If this condition is not corrected soon, one could even suffer from a cardiac arrest. To avert such a medical emergency, doctors may supply electrical energy to restore the normal heart rhythm.
If a person has already had a heart attack or is suffering from a serious heart ailment, doctors may recommend the implantation of a medical-assist device called defibrillator within the chest cavity. An internal defibrillator can sense any irregularity in the heart rhythm and correct it by sending small pulses of electricity to the heart. Here's some information on the procedure used for implanting a defibrillator along with defibrillator implant risks.
Defibrillator Implant Surgery
The implantation of a defibrillator is usually recommended for people who have been diagnosed with severe cardiac arrhythmia. This procedure is considered if the patient isn't responding well to drug therapy. This surgical procedure is performed after administering local anesthesia to the patient. First of all, two small incisions are made, one on the breastbone and the other on the collarbone. After that the defibrillator unit consisting of the pulse generator, batteries, electrodes and leads, is implanted in the chest through the incisions.
The leads are implanted on the heart through the small incision made on the collarbone. The other end of the leads then need to be connected to the pulse generator. The surgeon tests the device to see if it is working effectively. The device is then implanted under the skin through the incision and the incisions are closed. Imaging procedures are also conducted after the procedure to see if the device is placed at the right place and is working properly. The duration for which the patient will stay in the hospital would vary from case to case. Sometimes, the patient would have to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. This is to ensure that the patient gets medical assistance if any serious complications arise. The implant should ideally be checked every 3-4 months.
Risks Associated with Defibrillator Implant Surgery
Though there haven't been many instances of complications arising after this surgery, one cannot completely rule them out. Every surgical procedure involves certain risks and defibrillator implant procedure is not an exception to that. One of the common risks is that of bleeding or infection at site of implantation. Under such circumstances, the site of incision may appear swollen. There might be bruising or pus formation around the incision. If the lead wire that was placed on the heart penetrates the heart, blood could leak into the membrane that lines the heart. If cardiac perforation causes a lot of blood to leak, blood would have to be drained out surgically and the lead would have to be repositioned. In rare cases, the nerves or the surrounding organs such as the lungs may get punctured.
It is essential to follow the guidelines given by the doctor post surgery. One must refrain from lifting heavy weights and avoid any strenuous physical activity for a couple of weeks after the surgery. One must let the incision heal completely. The dressing should not be removed for at least a couple of days. One can take a shower within 24 hours after the dressing has been removed.
Handling heavy electrical machinery can lead to the generation of an electromagnetic field which in turn may interfere with the working of the device. So make sure that you don't keep any electric device close to your body. Since a defibrillator is an electronic device, it must be monitored at regular intervals. If any of the components of the device start malfunctioning, the device may send out electronic shocks. Consult a doctor if you experience too many shocks in a day.
The device can also be checked with the help of remote monitoring. All you need to do is keep a special piece of equipment at your bedside table. The data from this device can then be sent to a website that can be accessed by medical experts. Thus, you don't need to be physically present at the clinic for having the device checked. Remote monitoring can reduce the number of visits you need to make to the clinic. As far as the life expectancy is concerned, a good-quality device may last for 4-8 years, after which it must be upgraded or replaced.
Though a defibrillator may prove to be a life-saving device for patients, one must follow the guidelines given by the doctor. Though complications are quite rare, if you feel that the device is delivering too many shocks, consult your doctor and have the device checked.