Penn Study Sheds Light on End of Life Management of Implanted Defibrillators

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Media Contact:Jessica Mikulski | jessica.mikulski@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-8369April 5, 2011

Each year, more than 100,000 patients in the U.S. undergo implantation of a new implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for heart rhythm abnormalities. This number constitutes a 20-fold increase over the last 15 years. Current medical guidelines advocate discussion of end of life care of these medical devices, including deactivation, but many patients may not understand their options. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine say that discussions should also address post-mortem donation of ICDs for product improvement or reuse overseas as pacemakers, to help reduce global health disparities.

“ICD patients agree that discussions about ICDs and end of life are important,” said senior author James Kirkpatrick, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, Cardiovascular Medicine Division at Penn. “The majority of the patients we polled also support the concept of an ICD-specific advanced-directive (AD) and post-mortem donation for product improvement or reuse, but have not considered or discussed these topics."

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