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Kinder, Gentler Heart Defibrillator Is on the Way

Friday, 30 Sep 2011 05:45 PM


We’ve all seen it on TV or in the movies: A doctor applies defibrillator paddles to the chest of a dying patient, yells “clear!” and after a violent jolt, the person’s heart is shocked back into rhythm.
Each year a similar scene is played out in real-life with more than 200,000 people in the U.S. Although the shock is lifesaving, patients who’ve experienced defibrillator use say it is painful, and some studies suggest that it can damage the heart muscle.
Now scientists at Johns Hopkins University believe they have found a kinder, gentler way to halt the rapid and potentially fatal irregular heartbeat known as ventricular fibrillation.
They report success using a higher frequency and lower voltage that is based on alternating current instead of direct current. “This could be less painful for a patient while achieving the same result,” says Dr. Ronald Berger, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Johns Hopkins and a senior author of the study that examined the new defibrillator shock.
Researchers say more testing is required before a new device is developed, but Dr. Berger said a less traumatic heart shock “would be a great benefit to the millions of people worldwide who have a defibrillator to prevent sudden death.”

© HealthDay

   
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