Phantom Shocks Associated With a Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator

Paul Delle Donna, Luka Petrovic, Umair Nasir, Ahmed Ahmed, Giselle Alexandra Suero-Abreu


Wearable cardioverter defibrillators (WCDs) are external devices capable of continuous cardiac rhythm monitoring as well as automatic detection and defibrillation of potentially life-threatening arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia (VT) and ventricular fibrillation (VF). They are an alternative approach for patients when an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is not appropriate. Although treatment with ICD is considered highly effective for the primary and secondary prevention of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in high-risk patients susceptible to VT and VF, patients may still experience psychological difficulties such as fear of shock, avoidance of normal behaviors and reduced quality of life. One of these phenomena is phantom shock (PS), which is defined as a perception of having received a shock with no evidence of recorded defibrillation upon device interrogation. While PS has been reported in the ICD literature, to the best of our knowledge, we present the first known case of WCD-related PS. We also present a review of the current literature to explore the prevalence of PS, the factors associated with its pathogenesis and interventional studies aimed at reducing its occurrence. We highlight this case because PS is considered a phenomenon that few recognize, which should be discriminated from real device shocks before clinicians initiate treatment, device reprogramming or device discontinuation. We describe the psychosocial factors associated with PS to emphasize the importance of managing any associated psychiatric disorders and psychosocial factors both before and after initiation of device treatment.

J Med Cases. 2021;12(2):49-53


Phantom shock; Wearable cardioverter defibrillator; Implantable cardioverter defibrillator; Sudden cardiac death

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