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External defibrillator jumpstarts patient’s heart

Jan. 24, 2013, 8:55 AM

A LifeVest external defibrillator like this helped restor Barbara Campbell’s heart rhythm.

Typically, when a person experiences sudden cardiac arrest while asleep, the chance of survival is poor.

But when Barbara Campbell’s heart stopped working at 4:30 a.m. while she slept, the LifeVest external defibrillator she wore to bed that night did its job, restoring her heart rhythm and saving her life.

The 67-year-old Lewisburg, Tenn., grandmother has been a patient of cardiologist John McPherson, M.D., for several years. McPherson diagnosed her blocked left coronary artery.

“We found that her coronary arteries had severe narrowing, severe blockages. We were able to open those up and restore normal blood flow to her heart by putting in multiple stents,” McPherson said.

Despite placing the stents, Campbell needed a backup power source for her weakened heart muscle. McPherson prescribed a new, wearable defibrillator called a LifeVest, by Zoll.

“You put it on like a coat kind of, and it fastens in the front,” Campbell explained.
Unlike a cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), the LifeVest is worn outside the body rather than implanted in the chest.

It continuously monitors the patient’s heart and, if a life-threatening heart rhythm is detected, the device delivers a treatment shock to restore normal heart rhythm. The device alerts the patient prior to delivering a treatment shock, allowing a conscious patient to delay treatment.

Campbell had been wearing the LifeVest for three months when her heart stopped beating while she was asleep.

“I woke up…and my husband was walking around the bedroom fully dressed with the telephone in his hand saying, ‘do I need to call your doctor or 911?’” Campbell recalled.

Campbell’s husband, Everett, took her to the local ER, and she was then transported to Vanderbilt, where she received an ICD.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this device saved Barbara’s life,” McPherson said.

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