When the subject of treatment for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) comes up between a patient and their physician, the conversation can be overwhelming or disorienting as the patient attempts to understand their own precarious situation, as well as steps for treatment moving forward. Here, we take the time to take a slightly closer look at SCA and the ZOLL LifeVest, a wearable defibrillator that offers a potentially life-saving option to those at risk of SCA. Before look into the specifics of the ZOLL LiveVest and how it works, it’s important to understand who can benefit from the LifeVest, and what circumstances preclude its prescription.
What is SCA?
The heartbeat is controlled by the heart’s electrical system. When this system fails, it can trigger a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm. This causes the heart to quiver or shake instead of pumping blood to the body and brain, which is a sudden and serious condition. This is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Without immediate treatment, death occurs in minutes; this is sudden cardiac death (SCD).
Over 65% of Americans not only underestimate the seriousness of SCA, but also mistakenly SCA for a type of heart attack. A major contributing factor to how fatal sudden cardiac arrest can be is that it is truly “sudden.” In most cases, victims of SCA can lose consciousness quickly and without warning, and thus cannot help themselves. If the victim is alone or the event is not witnessed, or if the victim does not have a device to automatically intervene and deliver defibrillation, death occurs within minutes. Recent research shows that over 50% of sudden cardiac arrests that occur outside of a hospital are not witnessed.
As the third most common cause of death in the United States, SCA is experienced by 356,000 people every year. 90% of SCA episodes are fatal outside of a hospital; however, survival rates can increase with immediate treatment. If a bystander is present, they can administer CPR or use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Where the ZOLL LifeVest Comes In
For certain at-risk heart patients, a physician may prescribe a ZOLL LifeVest wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD), which does not require any bystander assistance.
Unlike an AED, ZOLL LifeVest is worn directly against the skin 24 hours a day. It should only be removed for a short shower or bath. When worn as directed, the device can provide a constant safeguard against SCD. ZOLL LifeVest is designed to detect life-threatening rapid heart rhythms and automatically deliver a treatment shock to restore normal rhythm. LifeVest does not require the assistance of another person or emergency personnel for it to work, so it can provide SCD protection even when a person is alone.
LifeVest is indicated for a wide range of heart patients who are at risk for SCD. This includes patients who have a low ejection fraction (EF) or weak heart muscle and one of the following:
- Recent heart attack
- A viral infection in the heart
- Heart failure
- Non-ischemic cardiomyopathy
How the LifeVest Works
ZOLL LifeVest consists of three main parts: a garment, an electrode belt, and a monitor. The garment is worn under clothing, directly against a patient’s skin. It also holds the electrode belt, which is designed to monitor the heart and deliver a treatment shock if a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm is detected. The monitor, which is worn around the waist or with a shoulder strap, continuously records the heart rate.
The entire event, from detecting a life-threatening rapid heartbeat to automatically delivering a shock, usually takes less than a minute. It is important to note that LifeVest does not treat all heart conditions, such as a dangerously slow heart rate or a complete stoppage of the heart, which are not treatable by a defibrillation shock.
ZOLL LifeVest allows patients to return to most normal daily activities with the peace of mind that they have protection from sudden cardiac death. The LifeVest WCD does not require the assistance of another person or emergency personnel to work, so it can offer protection at any time and in any location.
More information can be found at ZOLL’s website.