(DAILY MAIL – EVE MCGOWAN) – More patients with potentially fatal heart conditions can now have internal defibrillators due to new guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Nearly 6,000 patients with heart failure who are at high risk of an episode of rapid heartbeat, known as ventricular tachycardia, or a heart attack will become eligible for the life-saving devices as an ‘insurance policy’.
The change could cut deaths from heart failure by up to 40 per cent, according to the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI). Until now, these patients were given only preventative treatment such as beta-blockers, which decrease heart activity but do nothing to help should an episode of abnormal activity occur.
Before the NICE criterion was changed, the implantable devices were available only to those who had actually had ventricular tachycardia – a major cause of cardiac death – and a minority of patients who’d had a heart attack.
‘There have been many clinical trials over the past five or six years that have demonstrated this will save lives,’ says Dr Simon Williams, a consultant cardiologist at Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital and treasurer of the British Society for Heart Failure.
‘It’s proven to be cost-effective and we’re going to see a massive increase in the numbers of these devices fitted. Cardiologists have been waiting for these guidelines for years.’
The devices are miniature versions of external defibrillators, placed under the skin and connected with wires to the heart.
They are able to recognise if the heart is beating too fast and deliver an electric shock, which returns its rhythm to normal.