New heart treatment pushed at Parliament by Sheffield doctor

A new kind of defibrillator which could save lives was endorsed in Parliament yesterday by a junior doctor and ARVC sufferer from Sheffield.

The S-ICD (Subcutaneous Implantable Defibrillator) sits under the skin and has no leads connecting to the heart. It uses electrical pulses to control the heart rhythm.

Fran Porter-Young (pictured above right with her wife Corrie) said that this reduces the risk of infection and breakage associated with these leads. It also makes the device easier to remove.

Mrs Porter-Young, who works at the Northern General hospital on Herries Road, was diagnosed with ARVC (Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy) after collapsing three years ago.

ARVC is a heart condition which results in blood not being pumped around the body properly – this can lead to cardiac arrest.

A specialist suggested fitting her with an S-ICD (Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator), a device introduced around four years ago and an alternative to the standard ICD.

According to Boston Scientific, who make the device, just over 19,000 people are fitted with S-ICDs worldwide. By contrast, millions are fitted with ICDs and pacemakers.

Mrs Porter-Young also heralded the extra options it provided her with:

“I get to make this choice about what goes into my body. I think that it made me feel a lot better about the situation, more empowered,” she said.

Yesterday she spoke at the Houses of Parliament with the Medical Technology Group, who aim to improve patient access to existing treatments and gain funding for new technologies.

Mrs Porter-Young experienced the first symptoms of her illness playing rugby while at university. Her legs went from under her a number of times, till one day she fainted during a match.

Fran (number 14) on the rugby pitch

After the hospital noticed a change in her ECG (a scan that tracks the heart), her GP booked her in to see a Cardiologist.

Before she made it to the appointment, she passed out again walking uphill in the snow.

Mrs Porter-Young highlighted that ARVC is more common in active people and urged others with symptoms – particularly those linked to exercise – to go to their GP and get checked.

“My device [the S-ICD] hasn’t gone off yet. But it will likely save my life in the future,” she said.