What is a Defibrillator for the Heart ?

Dr. Kevin Pistawka, MD, FRCSC, Cardiologist, discusses What is a Defibrillator for the Heart ?

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Dr. Kevin Pistawka, MD, FRCSC, Cardiologist, discusses What is a Defibrillator for the Heart ?
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Kevin Pistawka, MD, FRCSC, Cardiologist
, What is a Defibrillator?
Duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds

Well, typically a defibrillator is used in patients who have either suffered a sudden cardiac death or at high risk for having a sudden cardiac death.  

Those that are at high risk are patients that have had significant damage to their heart as a result of heart attacks or arteries being blocked.

Some patients with inherited heart muscle conditions, and some patient with inherited electrical problems with their heart put them at risk for sudden death sometimes at a very young age, sometimes at an older age. And we certainly like to prevent that, and the way we do that is with various types of defibrillators.

Well this is an automated external defibrillator or an AED. We’ve all seen TV shows where the medical guys come out and they bring out the paddles and there’s lots of drama, and the patient sort of jumps off the bed, and in some cases the patient is resuscitated from what would be a sudden death.  

These devices now are a miniature version that are available in many communities.  You’ll find these in golf courses, arenas, shopping malls, and these are relatively simple to use.

They are very easy to be trained on. In fact, I’m sure you can go onto YouTube and find how to work an AED. You basically take out the patches, apply the patches, press the button, and usually with a press of a button the device will decide whether to give the patient a shock, or whether they’ve just fainted and don’t need resuscitation from a sudden death.

This, however, is an implantable defibrillator. So for patients who have had a sudden death and survived or are at high risk for sudden death we actually will take that same AED, miniaturize it and now implant it in the patient under the collarbone much like a pacemaker device.  

This device sits there and stands by on the ready like a patient walking around with two paramedics always at the standby waiting to resuscitate the patient if a sudden unexpected electrical even occurs.

So this is really a lifesaving device for patients who are at high risk of suffering a sudden cardiac death. This is fairly high tech technology that we’re dealing with, so this device is typically implanted in a larger center. It usually involves a cardiologist or in some cases a subspecialist within cardiology an electrophysiologist.

And they are the ones that will make the decision with you whether a defibrillator is right for you. Usually these are patients who have had larger heart attacks or in many cases these are family members of somebody who has suffered a life threatening event and perhaps died.  

So defibrillators are put in many patients, but it’s a complex decision that involves both the patient and the physician, and usually that’s made with your cardiologist or electrophysiologist.  

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Presenter: Dr. Kevin Pistawka, Cardiologist, Kelowna, BC

Local Practitioners: Cardiologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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