Risks and challenges of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators in young adults.
The clinical use of the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is well established to prevent sudden death in patients with left ventricular dysfunction due to coronary artery disease and dilated cardiomyopathy, and its use has saved thousands of lives. More recently, its use has been extended to other patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation: patients with structural heart diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia and patients with normal cardiac anatomy and function except for electrophysiologic abnormalities that predispose to cardiac arrest: Brugada syndrome and long QT syndrome. A distinguishing feature of these patients may be the young age when they present for either primary or secondary prevention. This contrasts with the "first wave" of adult ICD implantations that were usually performed in elderly or middle aged patients. An important consideration in favor of ICD implantation in young patients with sudden death risk is the long and cumulative period of their risk. Similarly, after implantation, these patients will experience the long-term risks of ICD implantation. This review focuses on the unique challenges presented by device implantation in young patients 16 to 45 years of age who may have 4 to 7 decades of life with their devices. Although devices may prolong life, they come with problems that will pose unique challenges for both patients and their physicians. Moreover, because of the long durations, these problems may accelerate as patients age.
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