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The American College of Cardiology Foundation, American Heart Association and the Heart Rhythm Society Issue Updated Guidelines for Device-Based Therapy of Cardiac Rhythm Abnormalities

CONTACT: Rachel Cagan, 202-375-6395

September 10, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC (September 10, 2012) - Surgically inserted cardiac devices play an important role in treating certain heart problems. In fact, an estimated 400,000 devices including pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators are implanted each year in the United States. Still, selecting patients in whom these devices will provide the most benefit can be challenging. 

To help clinicians keep pace with the emerging clinical research and advances related to device-based therapies, the American College of Cardiology Foundation, American Heart Association and the Heart Rhythm Society today have jointly released updated guidelines for their use in treating heart rhythm disorders. Chief among the updates are expanded indications for cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) – a procedure that is used to better synchronize or coordinate the rhythm of the heart, thereby, improving the way the heart functions. The revised guidelines reflect new evidence that patients with mild heart failure or NYHA class II should also be considered for CRT based on what their electrocardiogram (ECG) looks like. 

“These are patients who had previously been excluded from receiving CRT, but studies have shown they can benefit from this procedure. It can really improve their lives by delaying or avoiding worsening heart failure,” said Cynthia M. Tracy, MD, George Washington University and chair of the writing group. 

Within the guidelines, the writing group clarifies and provides recommendations about which patients are most likely to benefit from CRT. 

“There is growing evidence that patients with the widest, most abnormal looking ECG potentially benefit most compared to patients whose ECG are less abnormal,” said Dr. Tracy. In particular, patients with wide left bundle-branch block complexes as seen on their ECG seem to do well with CRT. 

“It’s very difficult on a case-by-case basis to assess a patient’s likelihood of success,” said Dr. Tracy. “Implanting a device is relatively straight forward, but it’s not completely without potential for complication and there are a lot of management issues that come up. You want to be sure you are doing the right thing by your patient and choosing the right device for the right patient.”

By pulling together and examining the best evidence to date, she says the guidelines can provide physicians with a clear indication for who is most likely to benefit from device-based therapies. In addition, other modifications have been made to help physicians decide which patients with atrial fibrillation (a rapid, uneven heart rhythm) might benefit from CRT. In particular, some patients with weak hearts and irregular, slow heart rhythms can benefit from CRT. The committee also summarized the minimum frequency of in-person and remote monitoring of patients with cardiovascular implantable electronic devices.

The original guidelines for device therapy were issued in 2008 and became the first to combine indications for all cardiac implantable electronic devices. The writing group reviewed these earlier recommendations and, other than the new and modified recommendations for CRT, they remain unchanged and current policy for the ACCF and AHA.  

“The updated guidelines extend and clarify current best practices and will continue to evolve as technology advances,” Dr. Tracy added.

The writing group included experts in device therapy, cardiovascular care, internal medicine, cardiovascular surgery, and pediatric and adult electrophysiology. The guidelines were also developed in collaboration with the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, Heart Failure Society of America, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. A related appropriateness use document is currently in development that will help to further interpret the best science and apply it to various clinical scenarios. 
The guidelines will be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology; Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association; and the HeartRhythm Journal. Full text of the guidelines will be posted on the ACC (www.cardiosource.org), AHA (www.heart.org), and HRS (www.hrsonline.org) websites. 
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About the American College of Cardiology

The mission of the American College of Cardiology is to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health. The College is a 40,000-member nonprofit medical society comprised of physicians, surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and practice managers, and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet its stringent qualifications. The College is a leader in the formulation of health policy, standards and guidelines, and is a staunch supporter of cardiovascular research. The ACC provides professional education and operates national registries for the measurement and improvement of quality care. More information about the association is available online athttp://www.cardiosource.org/ACC.


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country.

About the Heart Rhythm Society 

The Heart Rhythm Society is the international leader in science, education and advocacy for cardiac arrhythmia professionals and patients, and the primary information resource on heart rhythm disorders. Its mission is to improve the care of patients by promoting research, education and optimal health care policies and standards. Incorporated in 1979 and based in Washington, DC, it has a membership of more than 5,100 heart rhythm professionals in more than 72 countries around the world. www.hrsonline.org.

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