Options in managing the patient with high defibrillation thresholds

Lary A. Robinson, John R. Windle, Arthur R. Easley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The desired defibrillation threshold (DFT) obtained during intraoperative testing of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) should be 10 J lower than the maximal energy delivered by the ICD generator. Of the 206 patients undergoing ICD implantation since December 1986, 8 (3.9%) have had initial DFTs with less than the 10-J safety margin using the standard large patch-large patch configuration. Patches were implanted by left thoracotomy in 6 and sternotomy in 1, and 1 had implantation of a transvenous defibrillation lead and subcutaneous patch. Of note, 6 (75%) of the 8 patients with high DFTs had prior open heart operations, half were on a regimen of long-term amiodarone therapy, and the mean left ventricular mass index was quite large but not significantly greater than that of patients with low DFTs. Multiple techniques were tried to improve the DFTs in this group. Satisfactory DFTs were eventually obtained in 7 (88%); the threshold was lowered from a mean of 41.4 ± 3.8 J to 26.9 ± 8.8 J (p = 0.002). The most effective techniques were addition of a superior vena cava lead attached by a Y connector to one of the large patch leads in some patients and conversion to a biphasic-waveform generator in 2 others. Adding a third epicardial lead did not lower the DFTs. There were no major postoperative complications or deaths attributable to these supplemental procedures. Using these techniques, satisfactory DFTs were obtained in almost all patients with an ICD. Consideration should be given to insertion of a superior vena cava lead at the initial ICD implantation should an unacceptably high DFT be obtained with standard patch configurations. Biphasic-waveform generators and other newer devices may reduce the number of patients who require multiple leads for reliable DFTs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1184-1192
Number of pages9
JournalThe Annals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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