Wearable defibrillator approved for children in America

23rd December 2015

A wearable defibrillator has been approved for use in children with heart disease in America.

The device, called a LifeVest, is for people thought to be at risk of having a cardiac arrest due to heart rhythm problems such as cardiomyopathy.

The LifeVest, which has been used by adults for some years, is able to recognise dangerous heart rhythms and shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.

But now the FDA has approved the use of the wearable defibrillator for certain children thought to be at risk of a cardiac arrest but not able to get an internal defibrillator (ICD) due to medical issues or lack of parental consent.

The vest, which has an electrode belt and a cardiac rhythm monitor, is intended only for children who weigh at least 41 pounds and have a chest size of 26 inches or more, about the size of an average 8 year old, said the FDA.

LifeVest was first approved for adult use in 2001. The approval for use in children stems from studies of 248 young people aged three to 17 thought to be at risk of of having a cardiac arrest. Among them four had a cardiac arrest but were successfully shocked back into a normal rhythm by the device.

The device is designed to be light and easy to wear, allowing patients to return to normal life knowing they are protected. It is worn under clothing. The monitor is worn round the waist or from a shoulder strap. It continuously monitors the heart and, if a life-threatening heart rhythm is detected, it gives a shock.