Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (WCD)
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when there is a problem with the heart’s electrical system.
The electrical system directs the heart on how and when to beat. When the heart becomes irregular or too fast it cannot pump blood effectively. This causes the person to lose consciousness from lack of blood rich oxygen to the brain and can cause death in a matter of minutes.
The wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD) is an external defibrillator that is used to prevent sudden cardiac death. The WCD has 2 main pieces: 1. A light-weight vest that is worn under regular clothing and 2. A small portable unit that includes a recorder and a generator. Wires covered by tubes connect the electrodes inside the vest to the portable unit which carried ina fanny pack or should bag. It continuously monitors the heart rate and rhythm. If the monitor in the portable unit detects a potentially life-threatening arrhythmia an alarm sounds and vibration occurs to warn the patient that they are about to receive a shock. If the patient is not capable of turning off the alarm to stop the shock the device then shocks the patient to convert their rhythm back to normal.
The monitor must be worn continually to monitor and protect the patient except for very small periods of time such as a brief shower or bath.
The patient is followed very closely by their electrophysiologist and depending on the outcome of the monitor and other risks of the individual patient a permanent defibrillator/pacemaker may or may not be implanted.