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Wearable Defibrillators

What is a wearable defibrillator?

A wearable defibrillator is a special type of cardiac device that can recognize abnormal heart rhythms in the bottom part of the heart and deliver therapy if needed to restore the heart to a normal rhythm. Unlike an implantable cardioverter defibrillator which is implanted under the skin, a wearable defibrillator is worn like a vest against the skin.


It consists of two main pieces: a wearable fitted vest and a monitor and battery pack.


Wearable defibrillators analyze heart rates that are too fast and identify if this rhythm may be life threatening, such as ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF). If the wearable defibrillator identifies an abnormal rhythm (arrhythmia) it delivers an audible alert tone to warn the patient. If the patient is feeling well and believes the alert to be an error, the wearable defibrillator can be deactivated with a button on the monitor. If the wearable defibrillator continues to identify an abnormal heart rhythm, it will deliver energy by shocking the heart to convert it into an organized, normal rhythm.


Indications for a wearable defibrillator:

Wearable defibrillators are indicated in patients who are survivors or at high risk of cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation (VF) or hemodynamically unstable sustained VT (both are abnormally fast rhythms from the bottom part of the heart) after evaluation to define the cause of the event and to exclude any reversible causes.

  1. Heart failure and patients awaiting heart transplant.
  2. Low ejection fraction or weak heart muscle
  3. Patients who have had ventricular arrhythmias induced during an electrophysiology (EP) Study.
  4. Patients who previously had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and required removal of that device.

Often, a wearable defibrillator is temporarily worn for 1-4 months while determining a need for a permanent implantable cardioverter defibrillator or other treatment.


Are there special precautions to take with a wearable defibrillator?

Activity restrictions or precautions may be recommended depending on your child’s heart disease and condition.  Your cardiologist will review these recommendations with you.
Activities that are loud or cause high vibration should be avoided when possible. Examples of these are riding a motorcycle and mowing the lawn are both loud and cause vibration to the patient which can cause inappropriate treatment.

Remote monitoring

Today’s advanced technology provides a way to check recordings from the wearable defibrillator at home. The patient can manually transmit data from home for review by their physician.