Back in the 80s, American Express ran a popular series of commercials featuring the logo: “American Express: Don’t Leave home without it.” These commercials featured unnamed stars with their names imprinted on an AMEX card who touted the benefits of the card, especially for those who were frequent travelers.
For select patients, the same phrase can be applied to not leaving home without a record of your implanted medical devices including coronary artery stents, pacemakers and defibrillators.
Patients who have had stents for coronary artery blockages will be provided with a patient identification card listing the type of stent, the date of of implant, and the vessel in which the stent was placed. This information is useful for the physician who has never seen you because it can give clues to how long you should be on anti-platelet medications such as Plavix (clopidogrel). Additionally, the location of the stent will also give your doctor an idea of areas of the heart to pay extra attention to during tests such as echocardiograms or stress tests.
A sample stent card from Boston Scientific:
For patients with a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), the patient identification card will include your name, type of device, manufacture, lead information, as well as the date of implant.
A sample ICD Card from St. Jude Medical:
Each manufacture has a machine called a programmer that is only able to check on its own brand of devices. Your patient identification card will help your doctor select the correct programmer to use. The programmer will provide valuable information such as the presence of life-threatening arrhythmias, battery life, settings, and other diagnostic information. If many years have passed since your pacemaker or ICD was implanted and the correct programmer can’t link up with your device, it may suggest that the battery has run out and you are due for a replacement, called a generator change.
A sample programmer from St. Jude Medical:
These are just some of the items that you can carry around to keep you and your doctors better informed about your cardiac history. A medical device patient identification card is just like your drivers license–don’t leave home without it.