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How a defibrillator implant is giving heart patients peace of mind

RICHMOND, Va. -- Steve Hambleton recently received a defibrillator to help him manage an irregular heartbeat. Despite living a healthy and active life, he knows he's at a higher risk of going into cardiac arrest. He recently had a defibrillator implanted to help ensure a healthy heart.

"I walk anywhere from 10 to 15 miles a day," Hambleton said. "So, having this is my security policy. If I were to have a heart attack, this would kick in as soon as that happened and revive me."

Sudden Cardiac Death is a sudden unexpected death caused by a change in the heart rhythm. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is the largest cause of natural death in the United States, leading to about 325,000 adult deaths each year.

Steve Hambleton

Symptoms leading up to Sudden Cardiac Death can include feeling lightheaded or dizzy, having a rapid heartbeat or palpitations. Unfortunately, some victims have no symptoms at all.

Dr. Guru Mohanty is a Cardiac Electrophysiologist within the HCA system. He says some patients are more vulnerable to Sudden Cardiac Death.

"Primarily, we see this in patients who have developed cardiomyopathy or weak heart muscle or congestive heart failure. We often worry about Sudden Cardiac Death or the risk of sudden death in these patients," Mohanty explained.

A defibrillator is implanted, usually through the chest and helps detect when the heart develops an Arrhythmia, a disorder of the electrical system in the bottom of the heart. The procedure is performed in the hospital and usually requires a one-night stay for observation.

Dr. Guru Mohanty

Mohanty says the defibrillator can detect when the heart's rhythm is off.

"Once it detects that, it will deliver a charge to the heart to shock or defibrillate the heart and set the heart's rhythm back to normal," Mohanty says.

Physicians are also able to monitor the device and the patient's heart condition from home.

Hambleton says the device has given him peace of mind and a chance to do the things he once loved.

“Everything is great," Hambleton said. "It makes me feel good."

Working For Your Health is a partnership with HCA Healthcare. Serving the greater Richmond area, Chippenham, Henrico Doctors’, Johnston-Willis, Parham Doctors’, and Retreat Doctors’ Hospital are part of HCA Virginia. Watch for Working For Your Health reports Tuesdays on CBS 6 News at 7 p.m. 

Watch for Working For Your Health reports on CBS 6.

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