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Are Defibrillators Overused?

Implantable cardioverter defibrillators have been shown to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death in some patients, specifically those with advanced systolic heart failure. A new study shows, however, that this expensive technology is being implanted in many patients who do not meet the guidelines for its use. The researchers analyzed more than 100,000 cases reported to the National Cardiovascular Data Registry-ICD Registry. More than 22 percent of the devices implanted in those patients were for people with newly diagnosed heart failure or those who had recently had heart attacks. These patients, who did not meet guidelines, were significantly more likely to suffer complications and adverse outcomes following the procedure. The scientists note that, “While a small risk of complications is acceptable when a procedure has been shown to improve outcomes, no risk is acceptable if a procedure has no demonstrated benefit.”
[JAMA, January 5, 2011]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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