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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Doctors Employ New Technology to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest

February 3, 2014

Cardiac Team at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.  

Some military Veterans with heart conditions can now breathe easier thanks to new technology and a new procedure being employed by electrophysiologists at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC).  On January 29, 2014 MEDVAMC electrophysiologist Dr. Hamid Afshar successfully implanted two Subcutaneous Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators (S-ICD) into Houston-area Veterans at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.  The S-ICD System is the world’s first and only implantable defibrillator that provides Veterans with protection from sudden cardiac arrest while leaving the heart and vasculature untouched.

“We are thrilled to be the first Medical Center in the Department of Veterans Affairs and one of the first medical facilities in the country to offer our patients this incredible new technology,” Afshar said.  “This new technique is literally a life-saver for Veterans who may not be candidates for traditional defibrillators but who are still at risk of sudden cardiac arrest.”

For years, patients’ lives have been extended by implanted defibrillators, which use electrical pulses or shocks to help control life-threatening arrhythmias.  However, not all patients are candidates for the traditional procedure, which does involve implantation through the vascular system and the heart.  The new S-ICD system eliminates the potential for vascular injuries and complications during implantation and once implanted, uses highly sophisticated technology to identify heart rhythms and prevent sudden cardiac arrest. 

George Esqueda, an Air Force Veteran from southeast Houston, was one of the first two Veterans to receive the S-ICD technology at MEDVAMC on January 29th and is already thrilled with the results.  “I knew this procedure was for me when I heard about it,” he said.  “I’m already enjoying not having to wear the bulky black belt (external defibrillator) every day.  I will be able to sleep better without the belt and because I can relax knowing there is something inside me that will take over if my heart has problems during the night.”

Esqueda’s wife of 47 years Mary is also looking forward to a more “relaxed” husband as a result of this procedure.  “The doctors tell us that very soon George may even forget that he has a defibrillator,” she said.  “Not having to worry about his heart stopping will give us so much peace of mind.  We are so grateful he was a candidate for this incredible new technology and that we have such amazing doctors here at the VA.”

MEDVAMC electrophysiologists Afshar and Dr. I. Giorgberidze look forward to employing the new S-ICD technique at the Houston VA Medical Center to benefit Veterans from across VA’s South Central Health Care Network, which serves military veterans  from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and parts of Texas, Missouri, Alabama and Florida.

“This new technology provides vital protection for our Veterans from sudden cardiac arrest and sometimes just as importantly, gives them peace of mind as they go about their daily activities,” Afshar said.  “It really will make a huge difference in the lives of these men and women who have served our country.”

Esqueda, a father of five as well a grandfather and great-grandfather, looks forward to getting back to spending time with his family with his new defibrillator securely in place.  “I have a lot of living left to do,” he said.