The UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care implants UNC’s first ‘under-the-skin’ cardiac defibrillator

The subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator minimizes risks during implantation and reduces the risk of infection

The UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care implants UNC’s first ‘under-the-skin’ cardiac defibrillator click to enlarge Jennifer Schwartz, MD, holds the new subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD)
The UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care implants UNC’s first ‘under-the-skin’ cardiac defibrillator click to enlarge The subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD) is implanted under the patient's arm, with thin, insulated lead wires implanted under the skin, not inside the heart chambers, which detect an abnormal heart rhythm. Image: Boston Scientific

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Laura Melega, (919) 843-8217, laura_melega@med.unc.edu

Chapel Hill, NC – July 31, 2014 –A newly developed ‘under-the-skin’ cardiac defibrillator was recently implanted in a patient from Creedmoor, NC by UNC electrophysiologist Jennifer Schwartz, MD, assistant professor and clinician in the UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care. It is the first time the procedure has been performed at UNC Health Care.

The subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD) from Boston Scientific® is designed to detect an abnormal heart rhythm with thin, insulated wires, known as ‘leads’, that are placed under the skin, not inside the heart chambers, as is found with traditional implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs).  The S-ICD mimics an external defibrillator by providing an electric shock when a dangerous heart rhythm is detected. 

Patients at risk for dangerous heart rhythms and sudden cardiac arrest often have an ICD implanted in their chest.  Sudden cardiac arrest kills more people than all types of cancer combined and is the number one cause of death in the United States. With often no warning prior to death, having an ICD is vital for those at risk since the defibrillator can shock their heart if they experience sudden cardiac arrest.

With a traditional ICD, the leads are placed directly in the heart itself.  However, for patients that are at higher risk of infection or complications during the implantation procedure, the S-ICD offers them a good option, with the leads placed under the skin, not in the heart.

“Any patient who meets criteria for an ICD may be eligible for the S-ICD, but patients undergoing dialysis, who are immuno-compromised, or have had previous infections from an ICD are particularly excellent candidates,” explains Dr. Schwartz.  “We now have another great tool available at UNC to treat patients with serious, life-threatening arrhythmias.”

Dr. Schwartz performs the first S-ICD implantation at UNC Hospitals.

       Jennifer Schwartz, MD, implants the first S-ICD ever at UNC Hospitals on June 19, 2014. 

 Gregory Hooper of Creedmoor, NC was the first patient to receive an S-ICD at UNC Hospitals in June 2014.  Hooper had experienced infections with previous, traditional ICDs, making him a good candidate for the subcutaneous implantation. 

“I’ve been through a lot, and I’ve had so much pain from these infections,” Gregory Hooper said on the morning after the S-ICD implantation. “But right now, I’m feeling fine.” Greg Hooper SICD

“This is a game-changer,” adds Dr. Schwarschwartz SICD 2tz.  “For patients who need an ICD for primary prevention, but are at high-risk for infection and complications, we can minimize the possibility of both with the under-the-skin implantation of an S-ICD.”

Before the procedure is scheduled, a medical policy coverage search should be performed, as well as a review of each patient’s individual coverage benefits to determine insurance eligibility.  Additionally, pre-certification and authorization requirements should be identified and completed.  To find out if the patient’s insurance company covers the procedure, call the 800 number on the back of the patient’s ID card and ask to be directed to the medical policy department to discuss coverage benefits for the S-ICD procedure..

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