[Non-pharmacologic prevention of sudden cardiac death]

O Jurkovicová, S Cagán
Bratislavské Lekárske Listy 1997, 98 (7-8): 423-39
Non-pharmacologic therapy has revolutionized the management of arrhythmias and prevention of sudden cardiac death (SCD). Of particular importance is the introduction of radiofrequent catheter ablation (RFCA) and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). RFCA is effective and useful in the treatment and prevention of SCD, especially in supraventricular tachyarrhythmias related to dual or accessory atrioventricular pathways. There are some limitations in using this method in the prevention of SCD in ventricular tachyarrhythmias. RFCA is very successful, particularly in the treatment of bundle branch reentrant ventricular tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia in patients without structural heart disease. RFCA can be used as a palliative treatment of incessant or frequent VT before and after ICD implantation. Antibradycardia pacing decreases SCD not only by the removal of serious bradyarrhythmias but also by prevention of the occurrence of malignant ventricular tachyarrhythmias induced by bradyarrhythmia. Antitachycardia pacing is used in the prevention of SCD only as a part of ICD device. Implantation of an antitachycardia pacemaker as an isolated permanent treatment of tachycardias is currently almost not used. This method was replaced by RFCA in supraventricular tachyarrhythmias and by ICD in ventricular tachyarrhythmias. ICD is a very perspective non-pharmacologic approach to SCD prevention, particularly as transvenous leads were introduced and device construction was simplified. ICD is indicated especially in patients with spontaneous sustained hemodynamically significant ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation and when antiarrhythmic drug treatment, RFCA or antitachycardia surgery are ineffective, intolerated, contraindicated or cannot be performed. ICD as the treatment of first choice instead of antiarrhythmic drugs as well as prophylactic ICD implantation in asymptomatic patients at high risk is a subject of discussion. ICD decreases the incidence of SCD significantly. However, the decrease in overall mortality was not verified. Antitachycardia surgery is less frequently used after RFCA, and ICD have been introduced. At present, this therapy is reserved only for the cases of failure of RFCA or the impossibility to use RFCA and ICD. Surgical therapy can be combined also with concommitant surgical correction of associated structural heart disease. Sympathectomy is used in prevention of malignant ventricular tachyarrhythmias and SCD in patients with congenital long Q-T syndrome. Selective left cardiac sympathetic denervation significantly reduces the risk of SCD in these patients but does not remove it completely. Heart transplantation is the last alternative of non-pharmacologic prevention of SCD. It is indicated in cases when all pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic approaches have been exhausted. Heart transplantation is the only effective modality for the improvement of long-term prognosis in patients with malignant ventricular tachyarrhythmias and advanced chronic heart failure.

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