George W. Bush apparently is wearing a medical device for “persons at risk of cardiac arrest.” It is a LifeVest wearable defibrillator. He started using it sometime after his January 2002 fainting spell, which was attributed to choking. Based on photos showing him wearing the device, one can conclude the fainting was due to atrial fibrillation (AF), which his father also had. His father’s AF was caused by Graves’ hyperthyroidism, which his mother also has. Bush likely has AF and less likely Graves’, based on his family history and symptoms. The AF may have caused a stroke or TIA (mini-stroke), of which physicians watching the debates detected symptoms. Observers have noted psychological symptoms consistent with this and with Wernicke-Korsakoff disease.
[December 21, 2004] “The President remains in superb physical condition,” said Adam M. Robinson, Jr., commander of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, after the president’s fourth annual physical at the center on December 11.”The doctors said that Mr. Bush had a ‘low’ to ‘very low’ risk of coronary artery disease, although they found evidence of minimal calcification of the coronary arteries themselves. As a preventative, they recommended that Mr. Bush take a daily aspirin and a statin, or cholesterol-lowering drug,” reported the New York Times.In contrast, the photos below show Mr. Bush at a presidential debate, with parts of a LifeVest wearable defibrillator clearly visible underneath his suit jacket.
The LifeVest (left) has an electrode belt with four sensing/ECG electrodes. These send signals to the heart monitor/defibrillator, typically worn like a holster. When the monitor detects a life-threatening heart arrhythmia, it send a signal to the small, handheld patient-interface module. The module provides an audible alarm. The user, if able to do so, depresses two buttons on the module to hold off a shock from the defibrillator. If the user faints and is unable to press the buttons, the defibrillator sends an electrical pulse to the large shocking electrode on the patient’s back and a smaller one on the chest. The pulse can be repeated until the heart starts pumping blood effectively, up to five pulses.
In the center photo, showing Mr. Bush and Sen. Kerry at a debate, one can clearly see the shocking electrode between the shoulder blades as well as the electrical cord leading down to the monitor/defibrillator.
The photo on the right, also from the debates, gives another view of the LifeVest components.
Courtesy John Benzinger