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New Defibrillator Can Alert Doctors To Potential Problems

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Implantable defibrillators can be a lifesaver for heart patients. Recently, thousands were recalled because some malfunctioned. A new defibrillator is on the market that alerts doctors of any problems.

Ernie Grieco has had four heart attacks. Because of an irregular heartbeat, he has an implantable defibrillator.

"It could be a life-saving device for me," he said.

Like other defibrillators, when it senses an abnormal heartbeat, it shocks it back to a normal rhythm. What makes it different is it can actually talk to the doctor. It uses a special cell phone and sends data continuously to the hospital's computer. In an emergency, it can even page the doctor.

When a patient develops a dangerous arrhythmia and has a shock, a physician will be notified immediately," said Dr. Michael Orlov, of St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

If there's a problem -- for example, if it's not correctly shocking the heart back into a normal rhythm, the new device will know it and send out an emergency signal.

"In view of recent multiple problems and malfunctions in implantable devices, this becomes particularly important," Orlov said.

The new device just became available in the United States. Grieco was the first patient in the Northeast to get one.

"It's like having a doctor in my bedroom by my side," he said.

The new, implantable defibrillator provides patients faster care. It also reduces the number of times a patient has to go to the doctor for follow-up visits.


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