Implantable transvenous cardioverter-defibrillators

Gust H. Bardy, Bradley Hofer, George Johnson, Peter J. Kudenchuk, Jeanne E. Poole, G. Lee Dolack, Marye Gleva, Robin Mitchell, David Kelso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Scopus citations


Background. Implantable transvenous cardioverter-defibrillators offer a significant opportunity to decrease procedural morbidity and medical costs in the care of patients with life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias who otherwise would have required a sternotomy or thoracotomy for device insertion. The purpose of this study was to examine prospectively the safety, efficacy, and limitations associated with the use of a transvenously implanted, tiered-therapy cardioverter-defibrillator with antitachycardia pacing function in a consecutive population of 84 ventricular fibrillation (VF) and sustained ventricular tachycardia (VT) survivors. Methods and Results. The index arrhythmia prompting transvenous cardioverter-defibrillator implantation was VF in 41 patients, VT in 27, and both VF and VT in 16. In each patient, transvenous defibrillation via a coronary sinus, a right ventricular, a superior vena caval, and/or a subcutaneous chest patch lead system was attempted. The pulsing methods used included two-electrode single-pathway pulsing or three-electrode dual-pathway simultaneous or sequential pulsing. A transvenous cardioverter-defibrillator was inserted if the deflbrillation threshold (DFT) was ≤20 J. Successful implantation of a transvenous cardioverter-defibrillator was possible in 80 of 84 (95%) patients. The mean implant DFT was 10.9±4.8 J. After cardioverter-defibrillator implantation, all patients were extubated in the operating room and sent to a standard telemetry ward for monitoring. No patient suffered a postoperative pulmonary complication or perioperative flurry of cardiac arrhythmias. Postoperative complications included lead dislodgments in eight, transient long thoracic nerve injury in one, asymptomatic left subclavian vein occlusion in two, asymptomatic small pericardial effusion in one, subcutaneous patch pocket hematomas in four, pulse generator pocket infection in one, and lead fracture in one. As experience was gained with the procedure, it was routine to discharge patients 3 days after surgery. The mean hospital stay was 6.0±2.4 days. Upon discharge, all patients returned to their prehospital activities including those with complications except for the patient with a pocket infection, who required intravenous antibiotic therapy. Patient survival using an intention-to-treat analysis was 98% over an 11±7-month follow-up period. During this time period, 31 of the 80 patients (39%) with transvenous lead systems were successfully treated by their device for sustained VT or VF. Antitachycardia pacing was used in 424 episodes of monomorphic VT and was successful in 371 (88%). All episodes of VF were aborted by the device. Antiarrhythmic drugs were used after device implantation in only eight of 80 patients (10%). Conclusions. Transvenous cardioverter-defibrillator implantation is practical in most candidates. Implant DFTs are usually low, surgical morbidity and postoperative complications are modest, therapy of VT and VF is efficient, and survival is excellent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1152-1168
Number of pages17
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1993


  • Implantable defibrillators
  • Sudden death
  • Ventricular fibrillation
  • Ventricular tachycardia


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