WNY woman becomes first to try new defibrillator

Jennifer Pinkert has a heart problem that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

An implanted defibrillator could prevent that, and she just became the first person to receive a new type of defibrillator in Western New York. It was implanted last week at the Gates Vascular Institute.

“They told me a while ago that there was a device that they could put in that didn’t require a wire to go into the heart, and I was kind of hoping to get that one,” Pinkert said.

Standard defibrillators have wire leads that go from the main unit through veins directly into the heart. Those move with each heartbeat and can degenerate and malfunction.

Dr. Chee Kim explained, “This next generation device does not even require us to put a lead inside the heart. We can actually put it underneath the skin. When the leads fail prematurely, commonly they cause inappropriate and multiple shocks from the defibrillator.”

They can also provide a route for infection to reach the heart. The new device has a wire that is tunneled under the skin and placed next to the breastbone.

“And the lead is sitting subcutaneously, outside the heart,” Dr. Kim said.

The defibrillator’s job is to sense when the heart rate is dangerously fast. If that continues for more than a few seconds, it is life-threatening, and the defibrillator delivers a shock to to restore normal rhythm. We already know that Pinkert’s defibrillator works.

Dr. Kim said, “During the implant process, we’ve actually induced that life-threatening arrhythmia and made sure the device was successful in terminating that irregular heart rhythm.”

It was exciting to receive the first one implanted in our area.

“I was nervous but it was really simple,” Pinkert said.

She was the first, and there will be many more.

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