Sudden cardiac death (SCD) takes the lives of nearly a half million Americans each year. Some 80 percent die before medical help arrives and those who survive have faced a two-year heart attack recurrence rate as high as 55 percent. The Automatic Implantable Cardiovertor Defibrillator (AICD) gave new hope to these victims by lowering the recurrence rate to less than 3 percent.
This heart assist system, derived from NASA’s space circuitry technology, works to prevent the erratic heart action known as arrhythmia. The AICD is a cardiac pacemaker device incorporating micro miniature circuits with built-in microprocessor capability and the ability to communicate. Sensing heart activity, it recognizes the onset of arrhythmia and delivers corrective electrical countershock to restore normal rhythmic heartbeat. Intec Systems Inc. and Medrad Inc. of Pittsburgh originally developed the AICD in the early 1970s, in conjunction with researchers at Sinai Hospital, Baltimore. NASA funded development of an AICD recording system and an independent design review of the system, both conducted by the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University. First implanted in a human in 1980, development of more advanced models have continued through the years. Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc., (CPI) St. Paul, Minnesota, has spearheaded these efforts after purchasing Intec Systems in 1985. CPI was the first company to receive FDA approval for their manufacturing and distribution of this life saving technology.