Health Care

Heart implant now available in Kansas

A new procedure for those at risk for sudden cardiac arrest is now available in Kansas.

The procedure implants a defibrillator under the skin but not into the body cavity with wires that can shock the heart. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012.

Cardiac electrophysiologist Ghiyath Tabbal, a physician with Heartland Cardiology, was the first in Kansas to perform the procedure, which was done at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis on January 20.

The new device, called the S-ICD, has less risk than older implantable defibrillators because the wires that shock the heart lay under the skin, Tabbal said.

Traditionally, implantable defibrillators go under the skin by the shoulder and wires would go through vessels into the heart, which has a higher risk of infection, he said.

“Now there’s no direct interference with the heart and blood flow,” Tabbal said.

People of all ages can be at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, Tabbal said, and some reasons behind it include genetic disorders and weakened heart muscles.

“Especially for young people, this eliminates the future problems with the condition of the device and infection,” Tabbal said. “There have been multiple wire recalls in recent years that put people at risk for another surgery where they had to take wires out (of the heart) and put new ones in. This provides an advantage for people who have to live with this device for 30 or 40 years.”

The new method also means people who couldn’t handle the traditional implantable defibrillator will now be able to get a device, he said.

“For those people who would not be qualified (for surgery) before due to the vessel access issue, sickness and infections, there are now more chances for these people to have a device and be protected.”

The defibrillator has a battery that needs to be replaced about every five years. Currently, the roughly two-hour procedure requires an overnight hospital stay, Tabbal said.

Angela Rodriguez, 53, was the first patient to receive the new device in Kansas. Rodriguez had sudden cardiac arrest in January while she was getting a fistula for kidney dialysis. She was on a respirator for about nine days when she received the device.

“It was a life-and-death thing,” she said from her hospital room at Via Christi Hospital St. Teresa, where she is recovering. “I’m glad God gave me this second chance.”

Rodriguez said she didn’t have a known heart condition before the incident and she’s glad she’ll soon be back on her feet with the support of family, friends and Tabbal.

“So far, so good. It’s been great. I feel OK. I haven’t had any problems with it. I’m just glad I received it and it’s helping me a lot.”

Chris Buchanan, local sales representative for Boston Scientific, which produces the device, said an estimated 7,800 Kansans could benefit from it.

The procedure was performed at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis. Because St. Francis was a training site for implanting the device, the hospital is currently the only location it can be performed in Wichita, Buchanan said.

Another Wichita physician, David Margolis of Via Christi, has also been trained to implant the device.

The second S-ICD procedure in Kansas is scheduled to be performed at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City sometime next week, Buchanan said.