Risk stratification for implantable cardioverter defibrillator therapy: The role of the wearable cardioverter-defibrillator

Helmut U. Klein, Ilan Goldenberg, Arthur J. Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The benefit of implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) therapy depends upon appropriate evaluation of a persisting risk of sudden death and estimation of the patient's overall survival. Assessment of a stable and unchangeable arrhythmogenic substrate is often difficult. Structural abnormality and ventricular dysfunction, the two major risk parameters, may recover, and heart failure symptoms can improve so that ICD therapy may not be indicated. Risk stratification can take time while the patient continues to be at high risk of arrhythmic death, and patients may need temporary bridging by a defibrillator in cases of interrupted ICD therapy. The wearable cardioverter-defibrillator (WCD) combines a long-term electrocardiogram (ECG)-monitoring system with an external automatic defibrillator. The LIfeVest® (ZOLL, Pittsburgh, PA, USA) is composed of a garment, containing two defibrillation patch electrodes on the back, and an elastic belt with a front-defibrillation patch electrode and four non-adhesive ECG electrodes, connected to a monitoring and defibrillation unit. The WCD is a safe and effective tool to terminate ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation events, unless a conscious patient withholds shock delivery. It may be used in patients in the early phase after acute myocardial infarction with poor left ventricular function, after acute coronary revascularization procedures (percutaneous coronary intervention or coronary artery bypass grafting) and reduced left ventricular ejection fraction (≤35%), in patients with acute heart failure in non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy of uncertain aetiology and prognosis. The WCD may be helpful in subjects with syncope of assumed tachyarrhythmia origin or in patients with inherited arrhythmia syndromes. The WCD may replace ICD implantation in patients waiting for heart transplantation or who need a ventricular-assist device. This review describes the technical details and characteristics of the WCD, discusses its various potential applications, and reports the currently available experience with the wearable defibrillator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2230-2242
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Heart Journal
Issue number29
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • ICD therapy
  • Risk stratification
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Wearable cardioverter-defibrillator


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