Study finds implanted defibrillator reduces heart failure deaths

An implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) significantly reduces deaths in heart failure patients, according to a new study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the National Institutes of Health. The study also found that treatment with the antiarrhythmic drug amiodarone does not reduce deaths in these patients.

Preliminary results from the studycalled "Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure" (SCD-HeFT)are being presented today at the American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session 2004 in New Orleans, LA.

"These findings should have a big impact on the treatment of heart failure patients," said NHLBI Acting Director Dr. Barbara Alving. "Until now, it was not known if implanted defibrillators would help such a wide range of heart failure patients, including those whose heart failure may not have been caused by a heart attack. The study had a relatively high percentage of women and minorities, and was larger and lasted longer than earlier trials of sudden death in heart failure patients."

"When these findings are put into practice, they will prolong the lives of many heart failure patients," said Dr. Gust Bardy, SCD-HeFT study director and President of the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research in WA. "The results give physicians vital information for better managing the care of their heart failure patients."

Heart failure affects about 5 million Americans. It develops over time as the heart loses its ability to pump blood through the body. It can be caused by various conditions, including heart attack. Symptoms include feeling tired, having trouble breathing, and swelling (edema), usually in the legs and ankles.

It is estimated that about 50 percent of deaths in heart failure are sudden deaths and are probably due to a ventricular tachyarrhythmia, or rapid heartbeats in one of the lower chambers. In sudden death, the heart stops abruptly.

SCD-HeFT tested whether an ICD that pro

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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