LifeVest wearable defibrillator saves Valley man from sudden cardiac arrest

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Heidi Goitia

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 26 at 11:53 AM

PHOENIX -- A Valley man who was one of the first responders to the World Trade Center on 9/11 says he nearly died in front of his son recently, but a wearable defibrillator saved his life.

Luis Alicea, 50, had his first heart attack about 10 years ago. He's had some ongoing heart issues ever since. Several weeks ago, Dr. Fredrick Klopf of Cardiac Solutions, Alicea's cardiologist urged for retired NYPD officer to wear a LifeVest.

"It came down to the point where Dr. Klopf, my cardiologist, was in fear for my life," Alicea said. "When he issued me this LifeVest, it turned out to be just that."

Alicea was at the movies with his son, Anthony, when he suddenly collapsed in the lobby. He suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and might have died then and there had it not been for his LifeVest.

Klopf said the LifeVest is a great device for people who have heart damage, be it from a heart attack or an infection, but aren't quite ready for an implanted device.

"This LifeVest can serve as a bridge and be life-saving for those individuals who are at risk," Klopf said.

Alicea is living proof of that.

"I think it's just priceless for him," Klopf said.

Without immediate treatment with a defibrillator, SCA can turn fatal within minutes. Automatic external defibrillators like those found in many public places require a bystander to step in and take action. The LifeVest removes the third party from the life-and-death equation.

"The LifeVest does not require bystander intervention and has a 98 percent first treatment shock success rate for resuscitating patients from SCA," according to the LifeVest fact sheet.

The concept of the LifeVest is relatively simple.

"The LifeVest continuously monitors the patient’s heart and, if a life-threatening heart rhythm is detected, the device delivers a treatment shock to restore normal heart rhythm," explained the manufacturer's website.

The vest with the electrodes is worn under the clothes. The monitor is worn in a holster that's similar to a small cross-body purse or a waist pack.

Patients wear their LifeVests 24/7, taking them off only to shower or bathe.

"The LifeVest allows a patient’s physician time to assess their long-term arrhythmic risk and make appropriate plans," according to the manufacturer.

While it is the first and only wearable defibrillator on the market, the LifeVest is not new. The FDA approved it in 2001.

"In the last few years it has really kind of caught on," Klopf said. It has been prescribed for more than 100,000 patients.

Alicea wore his LifeVest for five weeks. He since has had a permanent defibrillator device implanted.

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