Wearable defibrillator is safe for children, say researchers

22nd May 2017

A new study has shown wearable heart defibrillators are safe and effective in treating children at risk from a dangerous heart rhythm

Wearable defibrillators, worn outside the body like a vest, can be used as a non-invasive alternative to an internal defibrillator (ICD) in treating people at risk.

Results of the large study in children were presented at the Heart Rhythm Society’s annual scientific sessions in America.

The vest can be used when someone needs an ICD to be replaced because of  infection or mechanical issues, is waiting for a first ICD, is waiting for a heart transplant, or is in a high-risk group but does not need a permanent ICD as their condition may improve.

In the study 455 children wore the vest for a median of 33 days.

A total of 180 of the children (40 per cent) had cardiomyopathy. Most were given the vest while an ICD was repaired or replaced.

Eight patients (1.8 per cent) received at least one shock treatment. Two patients (0.4 per cent) had one inappropriate treatment each. Of the six patients who received an appropriate shock, there were seven episodes of dangerous heart rhythms with a total of 13 treatments delivered.

All episodes were successfully dealt with and all the children survived.

The use of the vests were discontinued mostly before ICD fitting but also for improvement of heart function and heart transplant. There were seven deaths (1.5 per cent), which all occurred when the child was not wearing the vest.

Lead author Dr David Spar, from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said: “Research about wearable defibrillators in the pediatric population is very limited. So the results of this study are encouraging. In this large group of patients, we found that the therapy is safe.”