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New software for defibrillators lowers risk of unnecessary shocks

Bloomberg Businessweek, September 28, 2010

Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) have saved the lives of tens of thousands of Americans at risk for sudden cardiac death because of serious heart rhythm abnormalities.

But these medical devices have gotten a bad reputation in recent years, mainly because the electrical wires, or leads, that connect the ICD to the heart can sometimes fracture, causing patients to unnecessarily receive painful shocks.

Now, a new study suggests that doctors can cut the relative risk of accidental shocks in half simply by downloading upgraded software into the ICD during a routine office visit.

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