Heart defibrillators implanted soon after a heart attack can reduce a patient's risk of sudden death in the days following initial treatment, a study sponsored by device maker Medtronic Inc found.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or ICDs, are 98 percent effective at terminating abnormal heart rhythms that can lead to sudden cardiac death, but are not approved for use in patients who have just suffered a heart attack, said Medtronic, which makes the devices.
The Iris study, released Tuesday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Orlando, Florida, found a statistically significant reduction in sudden cardiac death in a subset of patients who received ICD therapy immediately after a heart attack, Medtronic said.
Patients in the study, who were at high risk for sudden cardiac death, received an ICD in the first month after suffering a heart attack. The trial involved 902 patients at 92 centers in seven European countries.
But ICDs did not reduce mortality from all causes, the company cautioned.
A significant percentage of people who survive a heart attack will ultimately die from a dangerous heart rhythm originating in the lower chambers of the heart, Medtronic said. About 15 percent will die in the first weeks, and an additional 10 percent during the first year.