Defibrillator implanted under skin works without wires (St. Paul's Hospital)

Doctors at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver stopped Mike McLellan’s heart last year then restarted it with an electric shock from a device they’d implanted under his skin.

“I’m still working on a good story about that,” says the 45-year-old sporting goods sales rep from Squamish. “Maybe white light?”

Even without a near-death memory, McLellan is marvelling at the advancement in an invention designed to save him from sudden cardiac arrest due to his irregular heart beat. He’s the first person in B.C. to receive a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD). Implanted defibrillators work by monitoring a patient’s heart and then administering an electric shock to reset a racing or irregular heartbeat. Until recently, all such devices had to be implanted along with wires threaded through veins near the heart. Now there’s the option at St. Paul’s of having a defibrillator placed just under the skin on the side of the chest without surgery on blood vessels.

Erin Ellis reports.

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