Benefits of Implantable Defibrillators May Differ by Gender

THURSDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Women with implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) appear less likely than men to suffer sudden cardiac death, according to researchers who reviewed the findings of five studies that followed 7,229 heart failure patients, including about 1,600 women.

The patients had dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and can no longer pump blood efficiently. An ICD uses electrical impulses to help control the irregular, potentially deadly heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

Overall, women had the same death rate as men, but they experienced significantly fewer ICD interventions for rapid sustained ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation than men. This suggests that women are less likely to suffer sudden cardiac death.

The study appears in the July issue of the journal HeartRhythm.

The use of ICDs was associated with a 33% reduction in death risk among men, while women with ICDs had a smaller and nonsignificant reduction in death risk, said the Italian researchers in a journal news release.

"We believe our findings may explain why women have smaller and nonsignificiant survival benefits from prophylactic ICD therapy and the importance for further studies to be done on this underrepresented group -- women," lead author Pasquale Santangeli, of the cardiology department at Catholic University in Rome, said in the release.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: HeartRhythm, news release, July 1, 2010