Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Wearable defibrillator saves woman’s life

Published: Mar. 30, 2018 at 2:50 PM CDT
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A life-threatening heart rhythm can occur at any time and without warning. The most effective treatment is defibrillation. A wearable defibrillator called the ‘Zoll Life Vest’ is helping to save lives.

“I truly don’t think I would be here if I didn’t have the vest on. My heart beat was going very, very, very fast. And a normal heart beat is 60 to 80 and mine was going 300,” said Carole Van Riessen of Sioux Center, Iowa.

“When a person goes into a life-threatening heart rhythm such as this, really you only have a certain number of minutes before either the rhythm needs to go back and start providing blood flow to the brain, or there’s the high chance of cardiac death,” said Dr. Elden Rand, a cardiologist at North Central Heart – A division of Avera Heart Hospital.

Van Riessen credits being alive to the Zoll Life Vest.

“The life vest is worn underneath your clothes and it has a sensor to determine and evaluate whether someone is going into a life-threatening rhythm. If they go into a life-threatening rhythm, the machine will sense this and provide therapy to try to shock the heart back into regular rhythm,” said Dr. Rand.

Van Riessen was a candidate for the wearable defibrillator because her ejection fraction, or the squeezing function on her heart, was below 35%. This put her at a higher risk of developing a life-threatening cardiac rhythm problem.

“If their squeezing efficiency is still low after an appropriate period of time on good doses of medications, then we recommend them to have a defibrillator placed. During this initial time, we worry about their risk of developing a life-threatening rhythm problem. So for these patients and during this bridging period, a life vest can be very helpful,” said Dr. Rand.

The life vest went off after just three days of Van Riessen wearing it.

“This was the shirt I was wearing when the vest went off,” said Van Riessen.

“After her device went off and got her heart back into normal rhythm, she came back to the Heart Hospital emergently, and we monitored her and were able to put a permanent defibrillator in,” said Dr. Rand.

Van Riessen recently started cardiac rehab and feels very lucky to be alive.

“I am very thrilled to have some second chances because without that vest, I really don’t think that I would be here,” said Van Riessen.

Patients wear the Zoll Life Vest 24/7 with the exception of bathing. Van Riessen says it is easy to wear and easy to take on and off.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.