Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a group of symptoms affecting over 5 million Americans. The chief symptoms are leg swelling, shortness of breath, fatigue and inability to exercise. The cause of congestive heart failure is a weakened heart muscle. The body tries to help by holding on to salt and water causing the swelling and symptoms of congestion. Unfortunately, the body’s response only makes the situation worse. In general, people with untreated high blood pressure, those who have suffered a heart attack, or those with conditions like heart valve abnormalities may be diagnosed with CHF during their lifetime. It can also occur after a viral illness or certain types of chemotherapy for cancer.
People with weakened heart muscles often have electrical problems with their heart and can be at risk for sudden cardiac death. The overall risk is or sudden death is increased with a reduction in the heart’s ability to pump, measured by the heart’s Ejection Fraction (EF).
A defibrillator (aka AICD) is a pacemaker that can also treat fast heart rhythms with a shock or very rapid pacing, to prevent sudden death. Guidelines for the placement of defibrillators have been established based on ejection fraction and the risk of sudden death.
Many survivors of heart attacks and those with life-threatening arrhythmias can benefit from a defibrillator. Defibrillators are designed to stop life threatening rhythms by delivering rapid electrical pulses and/or shocks to the heart to re-establish its normal rhythm. This device consists of a light-weight metal case called a generator which contains a tiny computer and a battery. The defibrillator is implanted under the skin in your upper chest near the right or left shoulder, and is connected to your heart with wires, called leads.