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ICD recalls, Social Media and Preventing Heart Disease

I can’t possible write two posts tonight.

Therefore, please consider this Cycling Wed post a mosaic. (I like that word, don’t you? Give me a break smarties.)


Today, my friend and fellow heart rhythm doctor Jay Schloss (Cincinnati) published this meticulous and well-balanced essay concerning the recent recall of St Jude Medical’s Riata defibrillator lead. The work exudes detail and clarity. As an editorial helper, I can testify that Jay logged Ironman-level hours into getting every paragraph right. As Jay doesn’t (yet) have a blog, good-hearted journalist Larry Husten offered his blog Cardiobrief as a canvas. Nice.

Influential cardiologist-blogger Doctor Wes Fisher rightly said Jay’s “tour de force” piece was a must read for heart doctors and industry people. That’s true. Jay offers real and actionable information on a complex and moving target. Remember, accurate information lies at the crux of good decision-making–in everything.

Having learned so much from working with Jay and Wes on the Riata story, I felt compelled to offer this broad overview on my Trials and Fibrillations blog over at

Though this stuff is technical, and seemingly specific to a narrow audience, I see two big picture items that are relevant to a general audience.

One is the role of social media’s influence in medical and patient education. Before blogs, Twitter and Facebook existed, an interested doc or patient had to read sterile journal-speak. Sure, such works come from prominent universities and major thought leaders, but one is often left wanting for more. “What does the author really think?…What do real doctors say?”

Shazam…Enter guys like Jay and Wes, and so many other medical bloggers. Here are regular doctors researching the crap out of something, meshing it with real experience and then action-verbing it all together in a readable piece. The end-result: strikingly helpful information, albeit without words like ‘stakeholders.

The second big picture item at play with the Riata story: It’s less than ideal to intervene after disease has already occurred. Though an ICD shock can save a life, and it often does, these devices and their imperfect, man-made hardware confer significant risk to the patient. Defibrillators are not alone in this regard. All the things we do to treat heart disease–prescribing pills, squishing blockages and burning heart tissue–have limitations and significant risks.

This is why I believe so strongly in preventing heart disease in the first place.

It’s why I recommend riding bikes, eating less pizza, going to bed on time, giving hugs, embracing optimism and…FTW…



6 replies on “ICD recalls, Social Media and Preventing Heart Disease”

E-patients every where thank doctors like you, Jay Schloss and Dr. Wes. Medical information seems to come on two levels: the kind that is in patient brochures, a munched down version of the truth and the kind that is in medical journals. As for the kind that is in medical journals, it reminds me of a quote from “Home is Where the Heart is”, “I have to look up all the words in the dictionary and then look up all those words in the children’s dictionary!” So, thank you all for making difficult and technical information available to us in words that we can understand.

At the risk of sounding (or being) simplistic, can I just say, “I think I love you?”

Every day I want to say that when I read your column. So now I’ve done it!


PS: I shared this with my husband of 47 years too! ha

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