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Medicare Reconsidering Under What Circumstances Wearable Defibrillators Will Be Paid For

I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?

Well, do ya, punk?

Harry Callihan, from the movie Dirty Harry

It was a small article in the Wall Street Journal on 8 August 2011: “Zoll Medical Falls As LifeVest May Face Reimbursement Revisions.” No doubt most doctors missed this, but the implications of this article for our patients discovered to have weak heart muscles and considered at high risk for sudden cardiac death could be profound.

That’s because Medicare (CMS) is considering the requirement for the same waiting period after diagnosis of a cardiomyopathy or myocardial infarction as that for permanent implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs). To this end, they issued a draft document that contains the new proposal for their use. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Cardiac Defibrillators: Is Research Supporting Their Use Tainted By Financial Interests?

I’ve been working for a couple of months on an in-depth article on personal defibrillators that are implanted beneath the skin of a person’s chest to shock a heart that starts shaking, thereby restoring its normal beating and preventing sudden death.  Discussing these defibrillators is extremely complex, which is why I am spending so much time on researching and writing the article intended to help patients and their families make an informed decision by learning the truth about the devices known as implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) — the good and the bad, your life saved vs nothing happening or the accompanying risks and harm you may receive.  So when I heard that a new study would be presented at the annual scientific meeting this week of the Heart Rhythm Society, a professional organization of cardiologists and electrophysiologists who use cardiac devices in their patients, I made sure to get an advance copy of what would be presented and interview the lead author.

Potentially such a study would be of interest to physicians and to patients considering getting an ICD because it looked at all shocks the defibrillators gave the heart in patients who took part in the clinical trial, including those sent for life-threatening rhythms and in error.  For several reasons, I felt the study is not ready to report to the public.  It is only an abstract.  The full study has not yet been written, let alone published in a peer-reviewed journal or even accepted for publication.  Patients with defibrillators who received shocks were matched to only one other patient who was not shocked, but the two patients were not matched for what other illnesses or poor quality of health they had.  Yet they were matched to see who lived the longest and the study looked at death for all causes, not just heart-related. One critical question the study sought to answer was this:  Do the shocks themselves cause a shortened life (even if they temporarily save it) or is a shortened life the result of the types of heart rhythms a person experiences? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HeartSense*

Top Cardiology Stories Of 2010 And Predictions For 2011

The end of the year marks a time for list-intensive posts. Recently Larry Husten from CardioExchange and CardioBrief asked for my opinion on the three most important cardiology-related news stories of 2010. Additionally, he wanted three predictions for 2011. Here goes:

Top Cardiology Stories Of 2010:

1. By far, the #1 heart story of 2010 was the release of the novel blood-thinning drug dabigatran (Pradaxa) for the prevention of stroke in atrial fibrillation. Until this October, the only way to reduce stroke risk in AF was warfarin, the active ingredient in rat poison. Assuming that there aren’t any post-market surprises, Pradaxa figures to be a true blockbuster. Doctors and patients have waited a long time to say goodbye to warfarin.

2. The Dr. Mark Midei stent story: Whether Dr. Midei is guilty or innocent of implanting hundreds of unnecessary stents isn’t really the big story. The real impact of this well-chronicled saga is the attention that it brings to the therapeutic misconceptions of coronary stenting. The problem with squishing and stenting is that although they improve the physics (of bloodflow), they do not change the biology of arterial disease — a hard concept to grasp when staring at a picture of a partial blockage. The vast press coverage of Dr. Midei’s alleged transgressions has served to educate many about heart disease, the nation’s #1 killer. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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