Auto Accident Risk 50% Higher Among Those With Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD): Study

A new study warns that heart patients who receive an implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) may be 50% more likely to be involved in an auto accident after the procedure, supporting recent calls for temporary driving bans. 

According to research presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress on August 26, patients with ICD’s are more likely to be involved in an automobile when compared to individuals of a similar age and gender.

The study was led by Danish researchers Dr. Bjerre and several colleagues at The Cardiovascular Research Centre at Herlev and Gentofte University Hospital in Denmark, with the purpose of finding whether patients with ICD’s were at a higher risk of automobile crashes than those without.

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Prior to the study, contemporary data did not support a driving ban put on individuals with ICD devices due to the potential for patient to suffer an arrhythmia while driving and lose consciousness.

An ICD is an implantable device that is put inside the body, either in the chest or abdomen, to perform cardioversion, defibrillation and pacing of the heart. The device is designed to recognize the presence of cardiac events and irregular heart-beats called arrhythmias, and automatically correct and control the pace of the heart to prevent life-threatening injuries.

Researchers collected their patient data using nationwide registers for residents who received a first ICD for primary or secondary prevention between 2008 and 2012. The study examined motor vehicle accidents that were recorded from nationwide registers on accidents and deaths. The study consisted of two groups. The first contained 4,874 ICD patients and the second included 9,748 subjects matched by age and gender with the average age being 63 years old.

The findings indicate that after a two year follow up period, 2.3% of patients with ICD’s had to visit a hospital for a motor vehicle crash, in comparison to only 1.7% of the matched subjects. Bjerre stated that over time this translates to a 51% increased risk of motor vehicle accidents in ICD patients compared to the controls.

Bjerre stated that due to the retrospective nature of the study, it was inconclusive whether the ICD devices themselves caused the accidents or if patients with cardiovascular disease are more accident prone in general due to the use of prescriptions drugs.

The study sheds light on an important and growing topic within the medical field. With the popularity of the devices growing over the last decade and roughly 100,000 new patient implantations each year, determining driving hazards to further expand restrictions could be lifesaving.


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