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External Cardioversion-Defibrillation with Pushing Down on the Chest Wall to Increase the Success Rate in Obese Patients

Ming-Lon Young, Eric J. Exelbert, Todd Roth, Lance Cohen, John Cogan

(Heart Institute, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Hollywood, FL, USA)

Am J Case Rep 2020; 21:e927009

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.927009

BACKGROUND: The energy delivered by a defibrillator is expressed in joules (J). However, current is what actually defibrillates the heart and is related to the voltage-to-impedance ratio. With the same energy, the lower the transthoracic impedance, the higher the current delivered. In obese patients, pushing the chest wall toward the heart during electric shock can result in an improved outcome.
CASE REPORT: We report the cases of 3 obese patients with previously failed cardioversion/defibrillation who had an eventual shock success. (1) A 17-year-old girl failed multiple defibrillation efforts for her recurrent ventricular fibrillation. After ECMO, with the physician pushing down the chest wall, a 200-J defibrillation converted her VF. (2) A 63-year-old man with recurrent atrial fibrillation (AF) had an unsuccessful 150-J shock followed by a successful 200-J cardioversion. His AF recurred. After amiodarone bolus, a 200-J shock converted it to sinus. Another recurrent AF failed 150-J cardioversion. With chest pushing down, a 150-J cardioversion was successful. (3) A 65-year-old man underwent elective cardioversion for AF. A 200-J shock was unsuccessful. A 200-J shock with pressure on the chest successfully converted it.
CONCLUSIONS: We performed successful electrical cardioversion/defibrillation with this “pushing down the chest while shocking” method. Many clinicians are still unaware of this method, especially in obese patients. With the increasing prevalence of obesity, it is urgent to perform a randomized study to confirm the efficacy and safety of this method, and integrate it into advanced cardiac life support protocols.

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