New tech may help young basketball player

WILLIAMSTOWN, N.J. - December 17, 2010

Sesoo Ikpah, or Ses, has been waiting this Fall to do what he loves - play basketball. Two seasons ago, he was a top scorer for American International College in Massachusetts.

Then his older brother had a medical crisis.

"His heart stopped. The paramedics came and revived him," Ses said.

His brother is OK today, but tests showed he has an electrical defect in his heart and, it turns out, Ses has it too.

He found out the heavy exertion in a basketball game might trigger cardiac arrest, so Ses found himself on the bench.

Then, this summer, his doctors at the University of Pennsylvania began testing a new type of implantable defibrillator.

Conventional defibrillators are implanted in the chest below the collarbone. They require at least one lead, or flexible wire, to be threaded through a vein, into the heart. If it detects an arrythmia, it shocks the heart back into rhythm.

But Dr. Fermin Garcia says, for Ses, the leads could possibly pose a problem while playing basketball.

"If those leads get trapped between the bone, it can mean trouble," Dr. Garcia said.

The new defibrillator doesn't thread a lead through the vascular system. It sits on top of the bone, under the skin. Because it's less invasive, the surgery is easier.

Shortly after his outpatient procedure, Ses showed us his new device.

"It just feels like somebody's pressing on my rib cage a little bit," Ses said.

Now he's waiting to see if the NCAA will give him clearance to play again.

"I want to be out there, on the go, doing things," he said.

The new defibrillator is a bit bigger than the conventional devices. It can also only be used as a defibrillator, not also as a pacemaker like some implantable devices.

It is still under clinical trials here in the United States, but studies abroad have shown the new defibrillator to be safe and very effective.

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