Pacemaker defibrillators help women as much as men

By Heather May
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 06/12/2007 08:39:45 AM MDT

A researcher at LDS Hospital says he has dispelled a myth that has prevented some women from receiving a life-saving heart device.

John Day, a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythm abnormalities, said there is an erroneous perception among doctors that women don’t benefit as much as men from heart-failure pacemaker defibrillators, which strengthen the heart and can shock it into restarting.

But he and a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic found the perception isn’t reality.

"Women do just as well as men, and if they are indicated for this life-saving technology, they should also have the same therapy applied to them," Day said Monday.

Day and David Martin, of Cleveland, recently reported their findings to the National Heart Rhythm Society meeting in Denver, hoping other cardiologists will start offering the apparatus to more women.

The study’s gender breakdown shows the disparity in how doctors treat heart failure patients: 34 percent of the 1,268 patients who received the devices were women - and that was a good showing.

"The big picture is that particularly in cardiovascular care, women are an underserved demographic group," Day said.

The patients came from 129 hospitals from around the world.
They had recently been implanted with the pacemaker defibrillators, which are placed underneath the skin near the shoulder.

Three leads, or wires, are attached to the heart. The technology is used on patients with advanced heart failure.

From December 2004 to November 2006, doctors tracked complications from the surgeries and devices, including blood clots, infection and prolonged hospitalization. They found no significant difference between genders.

Marion Payne was one of Day’s patients who participated in the study. The 72-year-old Cottonwood Heights resident was experiencing fibrillation - her heart would race and feel "like a fish flopping around in your chest."

After her surgery last year, she said, her heart had stabilized until she got pneumonia. She’s been glad for the normal heart rhythm, since the fibrillation tired her and could have led to a stroke or heart attack.

And she is happy to know she helped researchers prove that women deserve equal medical treatment. "I figure I’m doing it for my own children," Payne said.


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As for my pacemaker (almost 7 years old) I like to think of it in the terms of the old Timex commercial - takes a licking and keeps on ticking.