Features January 2009 Issue

Age Alone Not a Barrier to ICD Therapy

Elderly patients can receive implantable cardioverter defibrillators, but they need to weigh the risks and benefits of the treatment.

Elderly heart patients are seldom included in formal clinical trials of devices such as implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), yet doctors insist that older and younger people can reap similar rewards from the technology that helps hearts beat in normal rhythms. "ICDs can be just as effective in both types of patients," says cardiologist Bruce Wilkoff, MD, director of Cardiac Pacing and Tachyarrhythmia Devices at Cleveland Clinic. "There’s no evidence to suggest that elderly patients shouldn’t have the device. You just want to know what are the co-morbidities and what are the risks of therapy." And research from earlier this year suggests that elderly patients with ICDs live longer after heart failure than those who don’t receive the devices and that quality of life doesn’t suffer if you’re on ICD therapy.

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