Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) and American College of Cardiology have partnered for a $3.5m research project to study the long-term benefits and risks of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) in patients at risk of death from ventricular fibrillation.

The project is being conducted in co-operation with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of HHS’ National Institutes of Health.

AHRQ said that the patients at risk for ventricular fibrillation sometimes have ICDs implanted in their chests. These battery-powered devices, which are about 3 inches high and 2 inches wide, monitor the heart for abnormal heartbeats. If they detect life-threatening rhythms, they deliver an electric shock to restore normal rhythm.

The study is expected to follow 3,500 patients with ICDs from the Cardiovascular Research Network to determine: how often the devices deliver shocks; whether the shocks are appropriate; and to identify those patients who are likely to require ICD shocks.

Reportedly, AHRQ is providing $2.1m to construct the study sample and collect ICD shock data within the first two years of the study. The American College of Cardiology Foundation is providing $1.4m to collect and analyse shock data during the remainder of the study.

Carolyn Clancy, director of AHRQ, said: “This study will provide data from the real world of everyday medicine to inform discussions about the long-term benefits of ICD use. This study is an example of how government and the private sector can work together to advance research and improve the quality and safety of health care services.”