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1 in 5 Heart Defibrillator Implants Questionable

As many as twenty percent of heart defibrillators may be implanted without any solid evidence that the devices will help, according to a new analysis.

Defibrillators shock the heart back into a normal rhythm, and they can prevent sudden death in people with advanced heart failure. However, researchers haven't found any benefit for other patients, such as those who have had a recent heart attack or bypass surgery. Guidelines also don't recommend them for people newly diagnosed with heart failure or those so sick that they have very limited life expectancies -- but the new study found that 22 percent of implant surgeries were in patients who fit one of those categories.

USA Today reports:

"The researchers found that the patients who got implants according to guidelines were less likely to die in the hospital and suffer complications ... The 22 percent rate is disturbingly high ... [D]octors with special training in heart rhythms had slightly better rates of evidence-based implants than did other types of doctors in the study."

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