Implanted Defibrillators Help Women as Much as Men: Study

TUESDAY, Jan. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Among people with heart failure, implanted defibrillators benefit women as much as men, a new study finds.

Previous research has shown that implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) help heart failure patients live longer. And current guidelines recommend that doctors consider adding the devices to standard treatment for all heart failure patients.

However, women are less likely than men to receive an ICD, the study authors said. One reason may be that questions remained about whether the devices benefit women with heart failure.

People with heart failure are at increased risk for heart rhythm problems. ICDs are placed under the skin of the chest and deliver an electric shock to restore normal heart rhythm when a potentially deadly abnormal rhythm is detected.

The new study compared thousands of female and male heart failure patients with and without ICDs. After three years, just over 40 percent of women and nearly 43 percent of men with ICDs had died, compared with about 49 percent of women and nearly 53 percent of men without the devices, the investigators found.

The risk of death during the study period was more than 20 percent lower in both men and women with ICDs, according to the report published online Jan. 12 in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

The findings reinforce guidelines calling for both female and male heart failure patients to receive the devices, said study author Dr. Emily Zeitler, a cardiology and research fellow at Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C.

“Currently, many eligible patients with heart failure are not referred to physicians who can implant the devices. If you have heart failure, ask your doctor whether you might benefit from an ICD in addition to your other therapy,” Zeitler said in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on implantable cardioverter defibrillators.