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Revolutionary Heart Device Now an Option for At-Risk Patients

A new, less invasive heart defibrillator, recently approved by the FDA, is offering new hope to patients at risk of cardiac arrest. The device, which cardiologists are calling a breakthrough treatment, is known as an S-ICD, which stands for subcutaneous implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.

A new, less invasive heart defibrillator, recently approved by the FDA.Physicians at Drexel University College of Medicine and Hahnemann University Hospital were among the first nationally to use the device in clinical trials. Drexel is one of the few clinical sites in the country participating in the post FDA-approval study, evaluating the long-term efficacy of the device. Doctors here have already implanted a dozen of the devices in patients, with several more procedures scheduled in the coming weeks.

"This is the biggest breakthrough we've seen in cardiology since the invention of the VAD (ventricular assist device) in the 1980's," said Steven P. Kutalek, M.D., director of cardiac electrophysiology and associate chief of the Division of Cardiology at Drexel University College of Medicine.

What makes the device unique is that it provides defibrillation therapy without actually touching the heart; instead it is placed under the skin. Traditional cardiac defibrillators run a wire – or lead – through veins into the heart. The wire is attached to an implanted defibrillator, which can send an electric shock to the heart to treat arrhythmia, an abnormally fast or chaotic heartbeat. But leads sometimes need to be extracted because of infections, or fracture due to the repetitive motion of the leads inside a beating heart.

"The implantable defibrillators we've been using for years are a wonderful option for preventing cardiac arrest in many patients," said Kutalek, who is a national expert in lead extraction. "Now this gives us another weapon in our arsenal to treat patients who can't tolerate standard defibrillators or those at increased risk of infection. Because of its placement, the S-ICD offers patients more mobility after implant and a lower risk of systemic infection."

Drexel Medicine & Hahnemann Hospital among the first to offer non-invasive defibrillator.

Kutalek cautions that the new device has its limitations. Unlike standard defibrillators, the S-ICD currently can only be used for life-threatening rapid heartbeats like ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. Standard defibrillators can also act as pacemakers, adjusting to pace the heart when it is beating too slowly.

For Robert Dougherty, a truck driver from Vineland, New Jersey, the S-ICD is literally a lifesaver. Dougherty received the new device at Hahnemann in December when doctors determined his ventricular fibrillation was putting his life in danger. Dougherty says he was extremely relieved to hear about the new subcutaneous option.

"I know someone who has the kind (of defibrillator) with the leads and I was scared of that," he said. "I feel much better about this one. It's one heck of a step in technology."

About Drexel University College of Medicine

Drexel University College of Medicine has established some of the most highly innovative and rigorous academic programs available today, incorporating the University's expertise in engineering and technology into traditional medical training. The College of Medicine is home to one of the nation's leading centers for spinal cord research; one of the foremost centers for malaria study; and a highly regarded HIV/AIDS program with extensive NIH-funded research in prevention and therapeutic interventions. Drexel University College of Medicine has been designated a Vanguard National Center of Excellence in Women's Health by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and is highly respected in numerous other specialties including cardiology and pain management. Follow Drexel University College of Medicine on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

About Hahnemann University Hospital

Hahnemann University Hospital is a 496-bed academic medical center at Broad and Vine Streets in Philadelphia, PA. The hospital is a tertiary care institution that specializes in cardiac services, heart failure and transplantation, OB/GYN, orthopedics, medical, surgical and radiation oncology, bone marrow transplantation, renal dialysis and kidney/pancreas/liver transplantation. In 2009, Hahnemann earned Magnet® designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program®.

Hahnemann is recognized by the American Heart Association as a leader in coronary artery disease and heart failure treatments. U.S. News and World Report named Hahnemann among the top 50 Best Hospitals in the nation for Cardiology and Heart Surgery in 2010 and 2011, and ranked nine medical specialties as "high performing" in 2012 The hospital performed one of the city's first kidney transplants in 1963 and one of the first bone marrow transplants in 1976. Hahnemann became Philadelphia's first Level I Regional Resource Trauma Center for adults in 1986, and since then has been served by MidAtlantic MedEvac, an aeromedical transport program for critically ill patients. Hahnemann is proud to be the first hospital in Philadelphia to join with The Wellness Community of Philadelphia to offer onsite support and education services to cancer patients and their families.

Hahnemann is fully accredited by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the nation's oldest and largest hospital accreditation agency. An affiliate of Drexel University College of Medicine, Hahnemann University Hospital is part of Tenet Pennsylvania, which also includes St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. To learn more about Hahnemann, visit



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