Study: Implanted Heart Defibrillators Ineffective in Women

The results of a new study suggest that women who receive surgically implanted heart devices, known implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), may not see any significant health benefit, as opposed to men who tend to live longer lives while coping with heart failure if they receive the devices.

The meta-analysis, published in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that implanting cardioverter defibrillators in women with heart disease did not result in any statistically significant extension of their lives.

Although the study looked at 934 women who received the defibrillators, some have expressed concern that there were too few women involved to produce accurate results. By contrast, there were more than 3,800 male patients included in the study.

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Researchers found that women receive about 30% of all ICDs, although they represent half of the five million Americans suffering from heart failure. ICDs work by monitoring the heart rate for irregularities and use electric shocks to return it to its normal rhythm.

Men who received an ICD were less likely to die than men who received medication for heart failure instead, the study found. But researchers could find no statistical difference in the risk of death between women who received an ICD and those who did not. The study comes on the heels of another recent study which found that women were 70% more likely than men to suffer post-surgery complications from the operation to implant the devices.

The concern is that women may be undergoing an expensive, sometimes life-threatening procedure for little or no benefit. Women who have heart failure are generally older than their male counterparts, and may be less able to fight off post-surgical trauma and infections. There are also risks involved with additional surgeries to replace batteries in an ICD.


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