Walnut Creek Patch: John Muir Surgery Team Makes Medical History With Defibrillator Implant

David Mills

The operation late last month was the first time a Northern California medical center has implanted this new defibrillator.

It was a relatively simple surgery, but the operation performed by a John Muir Medical Center team last month has helped open the doors for some people who need a defibrillator but until now couldn't have one implanted.

The team, led by Dr. Arie Van Gemeren, implanted the new S-ICD System defibrillator into a patient in late November at John Muir's Concord facility.

They became the first Northern California medical squad to implant the S-ICD defibrillator made by Boston Scientific Corporation.

The defibrillator is used on patients who cannot receive a regular defibrillator because of medical conditions such as high risk of infection or blocked veins.

The S-ICD is different in that it has no electrodes or "leads" that are placed into the heart.

The new defibrillator works somewhat like a wireless laptop computer. It placed just under the skin in the chest cavity and remotely picks up the heartbeat and administers shocks when needed to stabilize the heart.

"It's a nice alternative to what we have now," said Dr. Gemeren. "It's less invasive and not as risky."

Defibrillators are used on people who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest because of sudden rapid or chaotic heart activity.

An implanted defibrillator monitors heart activity and then shocks the heart back into normal rhythm.

Dr. Van Gemeren said it's estimated between 10 and 20 percent of people who need a defibrillator can't get one because of medical conditions. The S-ICD can be used on most of them.

Last month's surgery involved a younger man who had a high risk of infection.

"He was an ideal candidate for the S-ICD device," said Dr. Van Gemeren.

The patient left the hospital the day after the surgery and is reportedly doing well.

Since then, two other patients at John Muir's Concord campus have had the new defibrillators implanted.

The S-ICD has two components. It has a generator that is implanted at the side of the chest to provide power for the device. The defibrillator itself is placed near the breastbone.

The device has FDA approval. In October, Boston Scientific Corporation received Prix Galien USA 2013 Award for Best Medical Technology.

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