GARLAND –– Sally Killian has been active her entire life, until undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer nearly killed her last year.
"My heart was so weak that if I didn't have the defibrillator I could cash in any minute,” Killian said.
Two weeks ago, the 76-year old became among the first in Texas to get a new type of implanted defibrillator, meant to give her heart a lifesaving jolt when the muscle stops pumping.
Implanted defibrillators currently deliver that shock through wires strung into the heart. But those wires are prone to failure and infection.
“When you try to take the wire out of the heart over five or 10 years of time,” says Dr. Brian Le, a cardiac electrophysiologist. “You have a lot of scar tissue that adhere to the blood vessel and also adheres to the heart.”
Dr. Le, of Texas Health Dallas, was the first in Texas to implant the Subcutaneous Implantable-Cardioverter Defibrillator, which uses just one wire laid outside to the heart. The coil from that wire, or lead, delivers the lifesaving shock.
Le calls it a giant leap forward.
"It's easy to remove and replace,” said Le. “And infection becomes less of an issue going forward."
A Food and Drug Administration study shows the device works just as well as the traditional devices, but with less risk. It does not replace a pacemaker, though experts believe pacemakers will soon be developed without the lead wires.
Sally Killian is already in a fragile state due to the cancer treatment. She hopes the “leadless” device will eventually give her heart the power to get off the couch and get back on the tennis court soon.