Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Dealing with heart disease often involves lifestyle changes, new prescriptions or medical devices. Certain heart patients may need to use a device called a LifeVest wearable defibrillator. This article has some information to consider if LifeVest is recommended to you or your loved one.
The Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death
Sudden cardiac arrest, often referred to as SCA, occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, causing the regulated heartbeat to become uncontrolled. When this system ceases to function properly, the heartbeat can spike immediately, causing the heart to shudder instead of pump. The heart fails to pump blood to the body effectively. Without visible warning signs, this condition causes individuals to lose consciousness within seconds. Without treatment, the rate of survival for SCA dips 10 percent every minute. Without swift medical intervention, sudden cardiac death (SCD) occurs within minutes. In the U.S. alone, SCA events claim the lives of approximately 350,000 individuals annually.
Certain heart patients are at high risk of SCD, including individuals with a low ejection fraction rate (measurement of the heart’s rate of pumping blood per heartbeat) who have experienced a recent heart attack, a new diagnosis of heart failure, have a family history of SCD, or a viral infection in the heart. High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and high cholesterol can also contribute.
In individuals who have experienced a recent heart attack, this risk is highest in the days and weeks immediately following a heart attack. While a heart attack differs vastly from SCD, having a heart attack could place individuals at a heightened risk of experiencing SCD. Upon having a heart attack, many individuals require the permanent implantation of a defibrillator but must wait in excess of 40 days post-heart attack (for those who do not require bypass surgery or stent placement) or 90 days post-procedure (for individuals who do require bypass surgery or stent placement post-heart attack). Throughout that waiting period, individuals are most susceptible to SCD.
How LifeVest Can Help
Without any visible warning signs, most individuals who experience SCD lose consciousness immediately and cannot physically summon medical help. In public spaces, the loss of consciousness may trigger a bystander to call for medical intervention. However, there is a possibility of SCA events occurring when the individual is alone, and survival rates plummet when swift medical intervention is not present. A doctor may prescribe the ZOLL LifeVest wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD). When worn as directed, LifeVest can provide a safeguard against SCD. LifeVest is designed to detect a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm and automatically deliver a treatment shock to restore normal rhythm without bystander intervention.
The LifeVest WCD garment or vest is worn under clothing. LifeVest is designed to provide constant heartbeat monitoring and physical administration of treatment shocks via an electrode belt. The electrode belt is connected to a monitoring device, which can be worn at the waist or in conjunction with a purse-like shoulder strap.
The wearable defibrillator provides an escalating alert or beep when a life-threatening rapid heartbeat has been detected, warning not only the wearer but also anyone nearby who can call for help. When this occurs, vibrations along the back indicates to wearers the beginning of the WCD treatment sequence. The wearable defibrillator usually delivers a comprehensive method of indication, warning, and treatment in under one minute.
Living with LifeVest
LifeVest should give your loved ones peace of mind knowing that you have protection from SCD.1 Individuals who wear LifeVest can return to their everyday life, maintain independence, and regain the ability to participate in many of the activities they enjoyed prior to having an elevated risk of SCD. Worn throughout the entire day, including during sleep, the wearable defibrillator is designed to provide around-the-clock protection and should only be taken off when bathing.
How Friends and Family Can Help
Friends and family members should have peace of mind knowing their loved one has protection from SCD. Caregivers can play a pivotal role in the successful utilization of LifeVest and can provide meaningful support during the period of highest risk until the patient’s medical team determines a long-term care plan. This could involve placement of a permanent implantable defibrillator or the determination that an individual is no longer at high risk due to successful medical or pharmaceutical therapy. While LifeVest patients receive comprehensive education and training, along with access to a 24/7 customer support line, there are many proactive steps that can be taken on behalf of the support community to ensure a successful experience.
In considering whether LifeVest is right for friends and loved ones, individuals can discuss the various benefits with medical professionals, who will assist in determining risk factors, comprehensive short-term and long-term planning, and the consideration of all pertinent factors.
1Whiting J, Simon M. Health and lifestyle benefits resulting from wearable cardioverter-defibrillator use. The Journal of Innovations in Cardiac Rhythm Management 2012;1–2.