(BPT) – By the time Emily H. turned 27, she had received her third life-saving heart device. While she was happy to be alive, she couldn't help but question why the implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) surgically inserted in her chest needed to be replaced with such frequency. At this rate, she would undergo three more surgeries and pay nearly $ 30,000 in out-of-pocket medical bills before she reached her 35th birthday.
"I found out I had a hereditary heart condition just before entering my sophomore year of college," she recalled. "I knew my life would never be the same after receiving my diagnosis, but I couldn't have imagined the physical, emotional and financial toll that my dependency on a cardiac device would have on me and those who love me."
Emily was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or a thickened heart muscle, at the age of 19. The condition makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood and could eventually cause sudden cardiac arrest. In order to prevent sudden death, Emily's doctor implanted an ICD to continuously monitor her heart rhythm and deliver a life-saving shock, if necessary.
Her first device battery lasted just five years. It was at that point Emily faced the reality that the batteries that power ICD devices do not last indefinitely. When her second device had to be replaced after only two years, she began to worry, wondering how many more devices she would need and how much money she would have to save for the next inevitable, yet unpredictable, replacement procedure.
"With my condition, my savings account isn't just dedicated for unexpected home repairs, a winter vacation or my children's college funds," Emily said. "I have to always be ready for future device replacement surgeries, and the weight of the financial burden that accompanies those surgeries is huge."
Emily talked with her doctor when she was due for her third device and learned that medical device companies have been working to advance technology to extend the life of ICD batteries and lessen the burden on patients who need them.
Now, at age 33, Emily has a Boston Scientific ICD that her doctor expects will last up to 11 years - nearly three times as long as the four-year average of her previous devices.
"I'm so grateful for the improved battery technology that Boston Scientific offers because it's truly impacting not just my life, but the lives of my husband and two small children," Emily said. "I am optimistic about my future and glad my doctors have access to this device that gives me and my family peace of mind."
Potential questions to ask your doctor about ICD's:
* What device options do I have available to me and how do they differ from each other?
* How long will the device battery last and how soon should I expect to undergo a replacement procedure?
* What resources can I review to gather additional information about the procedure and/or recommended device?
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