A weak or damaged heart can put you at risk for dangerous abnormalities in your heartbeat, and in a worst-case scenario, complete cardiac arrest. When a pacemaker isn’t enough to ensure your heart works as intended, you may need an implantable defibrillator, which can “shock” a dangerous heartbeat back to normal. The nationally recognized physicians at St. Louis Heart and Vascular, with six locations throughout the St. Louis area, use the latest medical technologies to provide you with a defibrillator that supports you with little interference to your day-to-day life. If you suffer from heart arrhythmias, call today to book your consultation.
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What is a defibrillator?
Like the “shock pads” you see on medical TV shows, a defibrillator delivers an automatic electrical shock to your heart when it detects an abnormal heartbeat. This jolt resets your heartbeat, restoring it to normal activity. Unlike the defibrillators you see on TV shows, however, implantable defibrillators are no larger than a pager and get implanted under your skin, connecting directly to your heart.
Depending on the severity of your arrhythmia, your physician at St. Louis Health and Vascular may program your defibrillator for a few functions, including:
Low-energy pacing therapy
This is the mildest treatment available for less severe arrhythmias.
This therapy delivers a more powerful shock to correct more serious heart problems. Cardioversion therapy may feel like a slight thump in your chest.
The strongest form of therapy, this shock can feel like a strong blow to the chest. You might experience brief pain but shouldn’t experience any lingering discomfort.
Who needs a defibrillator?
The experts at St. Louis Heart and Vascular most commonly recommended defibrillators if you’ve experienced a serious medical episode related to your heart. For example, if you’ve survived a cardiac arrest or have ever fainted from ventricular arrhythmia, you may be a good candidate for an implantable defibrillator. Your physician may also suggest a defibrillator if:
- You’ve had regular ventricular tachycardia (fast heartbeat) over a long period of time
- You have inherited or pre-existing conditions that cause an irregular heartbeat
- You have a history of coronary heart disease and have survived a previous heart attack
Your physician will monitor your defibrillator readings remotely, allowing them to keep track of your settings and receive notifications of any serious cardiac event.
What can I expect during a defibrillator implant?
Implanted much like a pacemaker, a defibrillator implant is an inpatient procedure that your physician performs while you’re awake under local anesthesia, though general anesthesia is an option. During the procedure, your physician uses X-ray imaging to guide several flexible wires under a major vein near your collarbone, passing them along to your heart.
Your physician affixes each of these wires to a specific location in your heart. They then connect the other end of the wires to the defibrillator device and insert the defibrillator under the skin beneath the collarbone.
After the procedure, your physician keeps you overnight to make sure you’re recovering well and that the settings are all correct on your defibrillator.
If you’re worried about your heart flutters, let the experienced professionals at St. Louis Heart and Vascular run diagnostic tests to determine whether a defibrillator can help you. Call the nearest office in St. Louis, St. Charles, or Bridgeton, Missouri, or Granite City, Illinois, today to book your consultation.