Defibrillators in public places save lives of those hit by sudden cardiac deathThe experience that Frank Bucar had on Dec. 10 used to nearly always be fatal, a Duluth cardiologist said.
The experience that Frank Bucar had on Dec. 10 used to nearly always be fatal, a Duluth cardiologist said.
“Back in the day, before ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillators) were prevalent in police cars, ambulances, schools, gyms, everywhere, this led to death,” said Dr. Scott Mikesell of St. Luke’s Cardiology Associates.
Mikesell, who was not involved in Bucar’s treatment, said what Bucar experienced clearly was what is known as sudden cardiac death, which typically afflicts athletes in their teens through early 30s.
“Basketball players, in particular, seem to be the most prevalent as far as experiencing sudden cardiac death while they’re playing,” Mikesell said.
One of the best-known cases of sudden cardiac death involved Hank Gathers, a basketball star at Loyola Marymount who collapsed and died during a game in 1990, Mikesell said.
When lives are saved, it’s typically because an ICD is at hand or because bystanders keep the patient alive with CPR until firefighters or paramedics arrive with defibrillators, Mikesell said. That’s what occurred with Bucar.
There’s debate in the world of sports medicine over whether athletes should be screened for genetic causes of sudden cardiac death, Mikesell said. Italy is at the forefront of the movement, screening all of its athletes.
Frank and Leslie Bucar plan to have their children screened for any heart abnormalities when they’re older, they said.
There’s also some controversy about the use of automatic internal defibrillators, Mikesell said. “The problem with them, basically, is inappropriate shocks.”
A person who experiences inappropriate shocks can become anxious, Mikesell said, because it hurts.
“They basically describe it: It’s like a horse kicking you in the chest,” he said. “It’s life-saving, but it is unpleasant. There’s no way around it.”
However, the industry has done a good job of reducing the number of inappropriate shocks an individual experiences, he added. And the benefit of having the AID implanted is overwhelming.
“Death or this?” Mikesell said, referring to the AID. “Everybody’s going to choose this.”