Living with heart disease can be challenging in many ways.
Along with the physical effects of heart disease, the lack of understanding around some ailments can be difficult to deal with.
Most people think sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack are the same, but they are very different. Those who don’t understand the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest aren’t aware that certain heart patients are at increased risk for suffering from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA often has no visible warning signs and no prior symptoms. Without proper and swift medical attention, SCA incidents can become deadly, leading to sudden cardiac death (SCD) in mere minutes. This article provides education about SCA and treatment options for heart patients that are at risk.
How Sudden Cardiac Arrest Differs from a Heart Attack
It is crucial to understand the differences between the sudden cardiac arrest and heart attacks and recognize how the two may be linked. While heart attacks differ in nature from SCA, a recent heart attack places individuals at higher risk of experiencing SCA, with a considerably higher risk within the first 30 days after a heart attack.
This strong correlation acts as a warning sign for medical professionals, individuals who have experienced heart attacks, and their families.
During a heart attack, the essential blood flow to the heart is cut off by blockages, damaging the heart muscles due to a lack of oxygenated blood. In many situations, heart attacks produce a variety of physical symptoms, such as chest pain, triggering the affected individual or surrounding people to contact emergency medical support.
Even if individuals nearby aren’t attuned to the symptoms of heart attacks and cannot identify the source of the medical emergency, symptoms are often visibly severe and indicate an immediate need for medical intervention.
In the case of sudden cardiac arrest, there are often no visible symptoms signaling that the event is about to happen.
The heartbeat is controlled by an electrical system whose purpose is to maintain a sustainable, healthy heartbeat. However, if the electrical system fails, the heartbeat can become unregulated and dangerously rapid within a matter of seconds.
The heart becomes unable to rhythmically pump blood through the arteries and, instead, begins to quiver or shake. In seconds, an individual who is experiencing this rapid heartbeat will lose consciousness.
When an individual experiences sudden cardiac arrest, unconsciousness occurs without warning, rendering an individual unable to seek immediate medical care if they are alone. Even in cases when medical intervention can be summoned, chances of survival from an SCA event decrease by 10 percent per minute without proper medical care.
An estimated 350,000 deaths occur annually as a result of SCA. With such critical timelines and life or death results, cardiologists may recommend that certain heart patients manage their risk for SCA by wearing ZOLL LifeVest, a wearable defibrillator that is designed to identify a rapid life-threatening heart rhythm and administer treatment independently.
What Is LifeVest?
Manufactured in Pittsburgh by ZOLL, LifeVest is a wearable defibrillator that can provide protection from sudden cardiac death (SCD). LifeVest is designed to provide a life-saving intervention for certain patients that have suffered a recent cardiac event, including following a heart attack, when the risk of experiencing SCD is high.
For these patients, LifeVest can provide a safeguard that can equate to a difference between life and death, while their doctor evaluates their long-term risk for SCD.
With three main components, LifeVest is a noninvasive solution consisting of a garment, electrode belt, and a monitor. LifeVest is designed to provide individuals with ongoing protection from SCD, while allowing wearers the freedom to return to many normal daily routines. Wearers can shop, exercise, and work while wearing LifeVest.
The garment is similar to a small vest and, is worn under clothing. The electrode belt attaches to the garment and, is designed to detect a life-threatening rapid heartbeat and administer treatment shocks as needed.
Working in tandem with the garment, the monitor continuously records a patient’s heart rate and can be worn on a shoulder strap or on a pant waist.
How LifeVest Works
LifeVest is designed to provide continuous monitoring and treatment for a life-threatening rapid heart rate. The wearable defibrillator can notify bystanders with an audible alert and independently administer treatment shocks to the individual.
Without need for bystander intervention, LifeVest remains self-sufficient in providing life-saving treatment shocks and alerts bystanders to summon medical help. In preparation to swiftly administer treatment shocks, LifeVest is designed to release blue gel on an individual’s chest and back. This prepares the patient’s skin for the administration of treatment shocks.
The presence of this gel also alerts patients who have regained consciousness to immediately seek medical help.
LifeVest’s identification of life-threatening rapid heart rhythms and delivery of treatment usually occurs within less than one minute. Swift defibrillation is a crucial component for survival. Unlike a traditional AED device, which can sometimes be found in public and community spaces, LifeVest is self-sufficient and does not require knowledgeable bystander intervention to provide assistance.
Who Can Benefit from LifeVest?
LifeVest is designed to protect individuals who are at an increased risk for experiencing sudden cardiac death. The appropriate duration of wear is determined by medical professionals. Patients typically wear LifeVest until a permanent solution such as an implantable defibrillator can be placed or the risk of SCD diminishes. LifeVest is most often utilized for several months, with varying lengths of appropriate wear discussed with an individual’s treatment team. LifeVest also provides data that can be downloaded and viewed by medical professionals. The information garnered during wear can provide data to a patient’s medical team during their cardiac recovery.
In addition to individuals who have experienced a heart attack, LifeVest is also used for a wide range of other patients, including those who have a reduced heart function and cardiomyopathy or heart failure, those with a viral infection in the heart, or those who have had an ICD removed, as these are all risk factor for SCD.
Patients Treated by LifeVest
Worldwide, about three patients’ lives are being saved every day by ZOLL LifeVest. For a new mom at home alone with a two-week-old baby who was diagnosed with postpartum heart failure, LifeVest allowed her the opportunity to survive an SCA event and retain the ability to be a mother to her precious newborn.
In the case of a 68-year-old Ohio resident who experienced an SCA event merely three days after starting to wear LifeVest, the successful treatment cycle allowed the resuscitated individual to physically walk himself to an awaiting ambulance summoned by his alerted wife. For a 49-year-old woman diagnosed with heart failure, the new grandmother experienced SCA merely eight days after beginning to wear LifeVest and received successful treatment shocks that saved her life.
Through these real-life stories of how LifeVest has had an effect on the outcome of SCA events, families can gain comfort, hope, and peace of mind for their loved ones, knowing that they can be kept safe by LifeVest.