A new study examined that Wearable cardioverter defibrillators vest-like devices that deliver electric shocks to interrupt a dangerous heart rhythm may be a safe and effective alternative to surgically implanted devices in children with ventricular heart rhythm disorders that put them at risk for sudden cardiac death. The study was published in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, an American Heart Association journal.

Our results, which stem from the largest study to date among children in the United States using wearable cardioverter defibrillators, suggest that these external devices can help save the lives of children who are at the time, not good candidates for surgically implanted defibrillators because of their medical condition.

Cardiac Arrests

Sudden cardiac arrests in children are usually caused by heart abnormalities that the child is born with. Cardiac arrests are often triggered by an electrical malfunction that results in a rapid heartbeat that causes the heart to pump ineffectively. With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs, and death can occur if the heart's rhythm is not restored or corrected.

Heart Rhythms

Surgically implanted cardioverter defibrillators the main therapy for children at high-risk for sudden cardiac death due to heart rhythm disorders, known as arrhythmias, are effective in averting deaths from potentially lethal heart rhythms, but invasive surgery or prolonged hospitalization is required.

However, many young patients are not good candidates for these surgically implanted devices because they need only a temporary "bridge" to help their heart.  Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved wearable cardioverter defibrillators for use in pediatric patients in 2015, data about their safety and efficacy in children has remained limited. 

This gap in knowledge has been particularly troublesome in how effective the device would be in younger patients in treating dangerous arrhythmias. If effective, the wearable cardioverter defibrillator could avoid prolonged hospitalizations while still offering arrhythmia protection, researchers said.

 The newly published results based on a review of clinical outcomes among all U.S. pediatric patients who wore wearable cardioverter defibrillators between 2009 and 2016 is the first to describe appropriate therapy with a wearable cardioverter defibrillator in a pediatric population.

Treatment

Of the 455 patients (average age 15) included in the analysis, eight (1.8%) received at least one shock treatment to interrupt a dangerous heart rhythm. Six of the eight patients in whom the device discharged received appropriate therapy for the type of heart rhythm the device is designed to detect and stop.

In the two cases of inappropriate therapy, the device misfired when it misread a signal from the patient's heart. In all cases, the dangerous heart rhythm was successfully interrupted, normal heart rhythm restored and the patient survived.