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Local physician among first in Bay Area to implant lifesaving cardiac device

April 15, 2014

Christine Ortiz, 59, of Union City, is one of the first patients in the Bay Area to receive a new unique cardiac device known as a Subcutaneous ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator). Her life nearly came to an end after she suffered what is known as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition where the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Without rapid medical attention, a person can die within a few minutes.

The incident occurred while Ms. Ortiz, who is the proud grandmother to six grandchildren, was watching her grandson's high school wrestling match. Thanks to a quick assessment by the school's wrestling coach and a Washington Hospital athletic trainer, Ms. Ortiz was resuscitated by emergency responders and transferred to Washington Hospital; an Alameda County designated cardiac receiving facility. Upon arrival, she was placed under the care of Washington Hospital cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Sanjay Bindra, who was involved in early studies when the device was in development. Not only was the life of Ms. Ortiz saved, but as a result of this new, revolutionary device, she is already resuming a normal life and protected from another, potentially deadly episode of sudden cardiac arrest.

The recently FDA approved Boston Scientific S-ICD¨ System is the world's first and only commercially available subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD) for the treatment of patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The S-ICD System is designed to provide the same protection from SCA as traditional ICDs; however the S-ICD System sits entirely just below the skin without the need for thin, insulated wires - known as electrodes or leads - to be placed into the heart. This leaves the heart and blood vessels untouched, offering physicians and patients an alternative treatment to traditional ICDs and fewer potential long-term complications.

"This new device is a major leap forward in the treatment of patients like Christine," said Dr. Bindra. "Because there are no wires into the heart with this device, the risk of infection and wear on the wires, which is an issue with traditional ICDs, is not a factor." For younger patients, those with cardiac electrical disorders or prior infection complications, the S-ICD is invaluable.

Traditional ICDs are placed in the chest, beneath the collarbone. Wires from the device run through a large vein along the collarbone and attach to the heart. Shock from the ICD travels through those wires, directly shocking the heart. Since the wires run through a vein, it's easy for bacteria on the wires to spread throughout the body via the bloodstream. Without leads directly into the heart, the S-ICD treats SCA like a paramedic treats a patient with the external cardiac paddles, without touching the heart or blood vessels thereby reducing the opportunity for complications from infection. In Ms. Ortiz's case, because of predisposition to infection, the S-ICD was the only type of implantable device for which she was a candidate.

Across the country, about 350,000 people die annually from sudden cardiac arrest or about one person every 90 seconds. According to Dr. Bindra, Ms. Ortiz not only benefited from Washington Hospital's designation as a cardiac receiving center, but the hospital is also designated as a receiving center for those who suffer from this condition, which means that hospital staff have the proper training and follow specific protocols to most effectively treat patients who suffer from SCA.

When SCA occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs and causes death if it's not treated within minutes. Recent estimates show that approximately 850,000 people in the United States are at risk of SCA and could benefit from an ICD device, but remain unprotected.

"This new device gives Christine security so that if she suffers from the same event in the future, she will be protected," said Dr. Bindra. "I expect her to have a full and productive life and I'm pleased to be able to offer these devices as an option to my patients."

Submitted By Christopher Brown

For more information about Washington Hospital's Cardiovascular Services, please visit whhs.com/heart.