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Women, Heart Disease and Cardiovascular Medical Devices
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Several types of medical devices are used to treat heart disease. These devices work differently in women and men, so it is important for women with heart disease and for their caregivers to be aware of the different types of devices and their effectiveness in women


  • Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmia. They put a small electrical pulse in the heart muscle to stimulate it. They are effective in both men and women. The pacemaker is placed just below the collarbone and some women express concern that their pacemaker can be seen when they wear a sleeveless shirt or gown that exposes their collarbone. Doctors can implant the pacemaker under the breast to address their concern.  

  • Like pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are also used to treat arrhythmia. Additionally they detect and treat life-threatening arrhythmia. Among women with comparable conditions, women with an ICD do better than those who do not have one. Additionally, women with an ICD show a lower mortality than men in the first few years after their ICD is implanted. However, women with an ICD seem to have a greater risk for complications than men, and more quality of life problems than men, including depression, worry, feeling loss of control, PTSD, and concerns about body image. Peer-to-peer support can significantly improve the quality of life of women who have an ICD.


  • Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) devices can treat arrhythmia and normalize the heart in patients with heart failure by sending electrical pulses that coordinate the heart chambers so that the heart beats synchronously. These devices are safe and effective in women.  


  • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement or Implantation (TAVR/TAVI) is a non-invasive procedure to replace a faulty aortic valve. A stent is placed in the main blood vessel or aorta. The stent opens up and releases a prosthetic aortic valve to replace the faulty valve without opening the chest. This procedure is effective in women and older patients.


  • Stents are used to treat coronary artery disease by unblocking a narrowed or blocked blood vessel. When stents were initially made, some were too big for the smaller arteries of women, so women didn’t benefit from them as much as men did. However, stents are now made in all sizes and shapes and are effective in treating women with heart disease. Drug-eluding stents tend to prevent re-blockage of the artery more often than bare metal stents so they are used more frequently than bare metal stents.  


  • Ventricular Assist Devices (VAD) are implanted in patients who have severe heart failure. The VAD bypasses the heart to pump oxygenated blood into the aorta. VADs are often used as a bridge between a heart attack and the next therapy and are effective in women.  

Learn more about cardiovascular medical devices by watching the recording of WomenHeart’s National Patient Education Webinar Women, Heart Disease and Cardiovascular Devices: What You Need to Know, presented by WomenHeart Scientific Advisory Council Member Annabelle Volgman, MD, FACC, Medical Director, Rush Heart Center for Women, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.  

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the nearly 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. Our programs are made possible by donations, grants and corporate partnerships.

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a founding partner of The Heart Truth Red Dress campaign. The Heart Truth and Red Dress are trademarks of HHS.