NEW ORLEANS – Each year, more than 100,000 patients in the U.S. undergo implantation of a new implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for heart rhythm abnormalities. This number constitutes a 20-fold increase over the last 15 years. Current medical guidelines advocate discussion of end of life care of these medical devices, including deactivation, but many patients may not understand their options. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine say that discussions should also address post-mortem donation of ICDs for product improvement or reuse overseas as pacemakers, to help reduce global health disparities.
“ICD patients agree that discussions about ICDs and end of life are important,” said senior author James Kirkpatrick, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, Cardiovascular Medicine Division at Penn. “The majority of the patients we polled also support the concept of an ICD-specific advanced-directive (AD) and post-mortem donation for product improvement or reuse, but have not considered or discussed these topics.”
Penn researchers conducted a phone survey of 153 ICD patients concerning advance directives and ICD handling at the end of life. Half of the patients that were questioned said they would like their ICD deactivated in an end of life illness. Most also thought that a do not resuscitate (DNR) order justified ICD deactivation. Although 17 percent reported ever thinking about ICDs in an end of life illness; just two patients had actually addressed the topic in an advance directive arrangement. Only five percent of the patients had ever discussed ICD deactivation directly with their doctor.
Regarding donation of ICDs for reuse or review of the device for improvement purposes, 88 percent said they would donate their device to facilitate product improvement, 87 percent would donate for reuse overseas, and 80 percent for reuse in animals. When asked to choose just one donation option, the majority of patients would donate their devices for reuse in patients overseas. The study results were reported at the 2011 American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans.
Dr. Kirkpatrick and colleagues at Penn concluded “Educational initiatives aimed at patients and their families are warranted to help cardiovascular clinicians address end of life issues.”
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4 billion enterprise.
Penn’s School of Medicine is currently ranked #2 in U.S. News & World Report‘s survey of research-oriented medical schools and among the top 10 schools for primary care. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $507.6 million awarded in the 2010 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania â€“ recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; and Pennsylvania Hospital – the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Penn Medicine also includes additional patient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region.
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