Implanting a device commonly used to help treat irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias, may increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents, suggests new research. The risk of traffic accidents is increased by 50 per cent in patients with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) compared to age- and gender-matched controls, the study said.
Abnormal heart rhythms (or arrhythmias) can cause your heart to beat too quickly, too slowly or in an irregular pattern and an ICD can give your heart electric pulses or shocks to get your heart rhythm back to normal, according to the British Heart Foundation.
“Driving after ICD implantation is an area of great debate and concern for both doctors and patients,” said lead author Jenny Bjerre, physician at Herlev and Gentofte University Hospital, at Copenhagen in Denmark.
“Our study provides contemporary data suggesting that the risk of motor vehicle accidents is in fact increased following ICD implantation when compared to controls,” Bjerre noted. The ICD, which looks similar to a pacemaker, is inserted just under the collar bone.
The device is widely used to prevent sudden cardiac death in patients with an increased risk of life-threatening arrhythmias and in patients who have survived a life-threatening arrhythmia, including cardiac arrest. The number of ICD implantations has increased dramatically over the past decades.
The study was conducted at The Cardiovascular Research Centre at Herlev and Gentofte University Hospital in Denmark. Using nationwide registers, the researchers identified all Danish residents who received a first ICD for primary or secondary prevention between 2008 and mid-2012. Motor vehicle accidents were recorded from nationwide registers on accidents and deaths.
The study included 4,874 ICD patients and a control group of 9,748 participants matched by age and gender. Participants were 63 years old on average. During an average follow-up period of 2.5 years, 2.3 per cent of ICD patients were in contact with a hospital following a motor vehicle accident, compared to only 1.7 per cent of the control population.
Over time, this translated into a 51 per cent increased risk of motor vehicle accidents in ICD patients compared to controls, the researchers said. The findings were presented at the ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Congress 2016 in Rome, Italy.