Women benefit equally from internal defibrillators

26th January 2016

Though some research suggests fewer women with heart failure get internal defibrillators (ICDs), their benefit is similar for both men and women with the condition, says a new study.

The figures came from patients aged 65 or over seen at more than 260 hospitals in America.

Despite some controversy surrounding the benefit of ICDs in women, the researchers saw no difference in the survival benefit between the sexes, said lead author Dr Emily Zeitler, from Duke University in New York.

ICDs are pacemaker-like devices that can, when the heart develops a life-threatening heart rhythm, shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.

Previous ICD trials had not included sufficient women for a definitive answer but the new study was the most rigorous so far to look at the issue, said the researchers in a recent issue of Circulation: Heart Failure.

Dr Zeitler said it was unclear why women seemed to get fewer referrals for an ICD but one reason might be the lack of evidence showing how the heart devices help women.

“We hope that these findings will improve referrals so women can benefit from this important technology as well,” he said.

The study looked at men and women who had their devices fitted as a precaution between 2005 and 20012, and similar numbers of both sexes who had not had the device. They were then followed them up for between three and four years.

The women who received an ICD had a 22 per cent lower risk of dying than those without the device. The figure was 24 per cent in men but the results were almost identical when other factors were included such as type of hospital, medications and other medical conditions, said the researchers.

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