Defibrillator More Effective than Drugs in Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death

Susan Farley
Published Online: Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Researchers have found that implantable cardioverterdefibrillator (ICD) therapy yields better survival rates than drug therapy in people with heart failure facing the risk of sudden cardiac death. An ICD is similar to a pacemaker, detecting cardiac events such as arrhythmia. It will deliver a shock immediately to correct the problem, whereas antiarrhythmia drugs such as amiodarone attempt to prevent irregular rhythms from developing. In the Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial, approximately 2500 patients with advanced heart failure were randomly assigned to receive ICD, conventional therapy plus amiodarone, or placebo. At the 4-year follow-up, mortality rates for the placebo and amiodarone groups were around 29%, while the ICD group showed a significantly lower rate of 22%. Dr. Gust H. Bardy from the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research commented, "Our approach to ICD therapy is widely applicable and should have a positive public health effect on the population of patients with congestive heart failure."The study was published in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.

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