Sex Problems Are Caused by Anxiety Over Heart-Shocking Device

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Sex is ruined for some people with congenital heart disease not by their disease, but by worries that the device that regulates their heartbeats will shock them at an inopportune moment, a new study suggests.

Some patients, particularly men, with implanted cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) have so much fear and anxiety about the device delivering a shock during sex that it causes sexual performance problems, according to the study.

The results suggest that patients and doctors should talk about these concerns to help patients cope with the increased anxiety, and refer them for appropriate counseling, said study researcher Dr. Stephen Cook, director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

An ICD is an implanted, battery-powered device that monitors the heartbeat. If the ICD detects a dangerous irregular heartbeat , it delivers a shock to restore normal rhythm. The shock can be painful, and some patients say it feels like a kick in the chest.

In the new study, researchers surveyed 151 men and women, including 41 who had an ICD. Participants answered questions about their sexual function and level of depression, and those with ICDs reported their level of fear and anxiety about experiencing an ICD shock.

Men were asked about their confidence, satisfaction and the ability to maintain an erection during sex. Women rated their interest, arousal, satisfaction and pain during sex.

Men with ICDs had an average sexual function score of 19, which is equivalent to that of men with mild erectile dysfunction . Scores of men without ICDs indicated normal sexual function .

Women with and without ICDs had similar sexual function scores, of 65 and 67, respectively. However, men and women with ICDs who had a high level of fear of getting shocked had lower sexual function scores.

The findings were presented today (Nov. 14) at the American Heart Association's meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Pass it on: ICDs may cause sexual problems in some patients who fear the device will deliver a shock during sex.

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Live Science Staff
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