9/11 Sent Real Shocks to Hearts Near and Far
Electrical Shocks From Heart Devices Spiked After World Trade Center Attack
March 10, 2004 -- While New York City struggled with the
heartache caused by the events of the World Trade Center attack, researchers
say many heart patients across the nation may have dealt with a real blow to
A new study shows that the number of shocks delivered by
implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) to prevent potentially deadly
heartbeat irregularities nearly tripled among a group of heart patients in
Florida in the month after 9/11.
Researchers say previous studies have shown that the frequency
of ICD shocks spiked among heart patients living in the New York City area in
the wake of 9/11, but this is the first study to show a similar effect among
people living hundreds of miles away from Ground Zero.
"This is the first time after a tragedy has occurred in our
country that anybody has looked to see whether it affects patients all across
the country," says researcher Omer Shedd, MD, a postdoctoral fellow in
cardiovascular medicine at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, in
a news release. "The implications are that the event had a much more
widespread effect than previously recognized."
Shock of 9/11 Felt Nationwide
In the study, researchers reviewed the medical records of 132
Floridians with ICDs who were seen for routine checkups in the month before and
the month after 9/11.
ICDs are commonly prescribed for people with unstable heart
rhythms. The device is implanted in the chest and works by detecting the
unstable rhythms and delivering a small electrical jolt to correct them.
Researchers say about 80,000 people receive an ICD each year,
and about 400,000 people die from unstable heart rhythms (also known as
arrhythmias) each year.
The study showed that 11% of the patients experienced an
abnormal heart rhythm in the four weeks following 9/11 compared with only 3.5%
in the month before the event.
"There are some data to suggest that a lot of arrhythmias
are anxiety-driven," says Shedd. "When people become anxious, the
levels of certain hormones in the body increase, and that can trigger rhythm
problems and heart problems."
Researchers says these findings provide additional evidence
that stress can affect both the mind and the heart, and people with existing
heart problems should seek psychological help to reduce their risk of
complications in the aftermath of national or personal tragedies.
The results of the study were presented this week at the
American College of Cardiology Scientific Session 2004 in New Orleans.