A team of computer software engineers at the University of Pittsburgh, led by Vladimir Shusterman, M.D., Ph.D., UPMC Health System Cardiovascular Institute, has developed and patented a computerized system that can predict a cardiac arrhythmia or sudden death up to eight hours prior to the onset of symptoms. The system is based on the team's research into the general biological mechanisms underlying cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.
When incorporated into a heart monitor or internal defibrillator, the system can provide ample warning to patients at risk for sudden death that an arrhythmia is imminent and allow time for them to take appropriate action. In the future, the system may be used as an external cardiac monitoring device in hospital intensive care units and has the potential for development as a continuous home-based monitor, according to the researchers. It also may help to prevent unnecessary defibrillator shocks.
"Shocks can be a psychological burden for a person implanted with a defibrillator," said Kelley Anderson, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of Cardiac Electrophysiology Research at UPMC Health System's UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh and a principal investigator for the clinical part of the study. "If we can predict when an arrhythmia is about to occur, then we can take steps to intervene."
An arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heart that can be fatal. An internal defibrillator is a battery-powered electronic device implanted near the collarbone of people who are at risk for sudden death. It monitors the heart rhythm continuously and restores normal rhythm by delivering an electrical shock when it detects an arrhythmia. Over 40,000 defibrillators are implanted yearly in the United States.
Some 300,000 people in the United States die suddenly each year from arrhythmia or about one person every one to two minutes. For a large per
Contact: Frank Raczkiewicz
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center