Duke Study Finds Overuse Of Internal Defibrillators

Jan 5, 2011

Credit Vintage Collective, Flickr Creative Commons

Too many cardiac patients are getting internal defibrillators when they don't need them - that's the result of new research from Duke.

Implantable cardiac defibrillators are used for patients who have irregular heart rhythms to zap their hearts back to a regular beat. Former vice president Dick Cheney has one.   But Duke researcher Sana Al-Khatib says she was surprised to find many patients who got a defibrillator didn't meet evidence-based guidelines for having one:

"I'm sure some of these instances fell in the grey zone where the physician felt that, you know the best thing to do was to implant the defibrillator. But I wouldn't have expected that rate of you know, this was just clinical judgement and the physicians were using their clinical judgement... I don't think that alone, that can explain a rate of close to 23 percent."

Al-Khatib also found patients who got unnecessary defibrillators were more likely to have complications, and were more likely to die.   An implantable defibrillator can cost 30,000 dollars.