Caring for a LifeVest Patient

ZOLL | Caring for a LifeVest Patient

When a loved one has an increased risk of sudden cardiac death, the future can feel uncertain. For patients who are prescribed the ZOLL LifeVest, loved ones may be able to rest just a bit easier.

When a loved one has experienced a cardiac emergency, fear and anxiety are natural responses. One way to effectively support and care for a person who is at risk of further cardiac events is through understanding the situation and the treatments involved and encouraging loved ones to adhere faithfully to their medications and treatments.

A heart patient at an increased risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) may be prescribed the ZOLL LifeVest wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD). LifeVest is designed to detect certain rapid, life-threatening heart rhythms and administer a treatment shock when needed. Unlike an AED, a LifeVest patient will wear the device directly against their skin. Patients are instructed to wear the device around the clock, only removing for a short shower or bath. When worn as directed, LifeVest can automatically provide treatment day or night, even when the patient is alone. This provides many family members and caregivers peace of mind knowing their loved one has protection against SCD. 

If your loved one is prescribed LifeVest, they will receive extensive training when they are fitted with the device. There is also a ZOLL patient support team available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Still, as a family member or caregiver, you can help support your loved one as they follow the doctor’s instructions and wear LifeVest. There are also things that you should be aware of, should your loved one experience an irregular heart rhythm that triggers the LifeVest WCD to proceed through its treatment sequence.

The LifeVest WCD is comprised of three main components – a garment, electrode belt, and monitor. The garment is worn directly against the patient’s skin under their normal clothing. It holds the electrode belt, which is designed to detect certain dangerous heart rhythms and deliver a treatment shock if needed. The monitor is worn around the waist or with a shoulder strap. It is designed to continuously monitor the patient’s heart rhythm and transmit patient health data to the treating physician after it is downloaded from the device. It is important to understand that while this information may be used by the physician to provide medical care, no person is reviewing the data in real time. Emergency services should be called if you or the patient believe they are experiencing a medical emergency. 

One of the key features of LifeVest is the series of alerts and voice prompts that keep you informed about what the device is doing. These alerts let the patient and bystanders know that the LifeVest WCD is working to protect the patient. LifeVest utilizes three types of alerts – vibrations, gongs, and sirens. The vibration alert is silent so bystanders may not be aware the alert is happening; however, the patient will feel the vibration alert on their back. The vibration occurs every time the battery is changed as well as indicating the beginning of the treatment sequence. The gong is an audible alert that is accompanied by a message on the monitor. The patient should read the message on the monitor to see what to do next. The two-tone siren is also an audible alert that both the patient and any bystanders will hear. It indicates that the LifeVest WCD may have detected a dangerously fast heartbeat and may be preparing to deliver a treatment shock. 

During the treatment sequence, the LifeVest WCD will also provide audible instructions for any bystanders. This includes informing the bystanders that treatment has started and to call emergency services. LifeVest will also remind any bystanders that they should not touch the patient during treatment. If a patient receives a treatment shock, a bystander could also be shocked if they are touching the patient. 

One of the most important things to remember is that only the patient should use the response buttons on the LifeVest WCD. Do not, for any reason, let anyone else press the response buttons. If a bystander presses the response buttons, the patient may not receive the treatment necessary to save their life if they need it.

On a day-to-day basis, there are other ways you can support your loved one in maintaining proper use of LifeVest, including the regular charging of the LifeVest batteries. Patients will receive two batteries for LifeVest. While one battery powers the LifeVest WCD, the other battery should be charging. The battery should be changed every 24 hours. In your supporting role, you can remind your loved one to change the battery every day and to make sure the second battery is charging. 

Additionally, you can remind your loved one to wash the garment every one or two days. It is important to remember that the electrode belt needs to be removed prior to washing as this part of the device cannot get wet. 

Your loved one has been prescribed LifeVest because their doctor believes that they are at risk for sudden cardiac death. When your loved one wears the LifeVest WCD, you can have peace of mind that they have protection from sudden cardiac death.