Heart Shock for Former Mayor Lanier

Former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier is in stable condition this morning at St. Luke's Hospital's Texas Heart Institute after his implanted heart defibrillator went-off right before Enron founder Ken Lay's memorial service Wednesday. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports on what the device does and how it saves lives.

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Lanier's defibrillator activated yesterday after it detected an arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat that can be fatal if it's not addressed immediately. Similar devices are often implanted next to the heart with wires leading into the heart that can provide a life-saving jolt. Dr. Nadim Nasir is the medical director of the Debakey Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab at The Methodist Hospital.

"Most patients are awake and fully conscious so they feel a fairly sharp and abrupt jolt to their chest, akin to somebody punching them very sharply with the fist and it's very transient, it's not very painful, but it is startling and then there's no residual discomfort whatsoever."

Lanier's device has gone off before, the last time in 2002. Nasir says most patients have no serious side effects after their hearts are shocked back into rhythm.

"Long-term repercussions from a shock are none, other than the benefit of being rescued and staying alive. In terms of the patient's lifestyle, more often than not patients resume their routine physical activities, routine lifestyle and go on about their business. That's the whole benefit of having a device that permits you to be rescued and avoid the disastrous consequences of a cardiac arrest."

"Mayor Bob" as he is known, led the city for six years starting in 1992 and was one of Houston's most popular politicians. He's expected to be released from the hospital within the next couple of days.

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