Anxiety-related sexual problems occur among young adults with congenital heart disease who have implanted heart defibrillators, a new study finds.
Their anxiety about the possibility of receiving a shock from their implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) can lead to sexual dysfunction, according to the study in the June issue of the journal HeartRhythm.
The researchers looked at 70 patients with an ICD and 110 patients without an ICD, average age 32, and found that those with ICDs had a high level of shock-related anxiety. Elevated anxiety was associated with poorer sexual function in both men and women.
This is the first study to reveal that shock-related anxiety is associated with sexual dysfunction in young adults with ICDs, according to the researchers. They said the findings point to the need to address these issues in order to improve the quality of life for these patients.
Psychosocial issues often overlooked
"ICDs are increasingly being implanted in this young and vulnerable patient population, yet the psychosocial issues are often overlooked. Our study is an example of dynamic research intended to help us better understand this growing population," lead author Dr. Stephen Cook said in a news release from the Heart Rhythm Society.
"Improving outcomes and the quality of life in these young adults is critical and our results clearly show the importance of addressing their psychological well-being," added Cook, who is with the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Congenital heart defects are among the most common types of birth defects, according to the news release. In 2000, the estimated number of U.S. adults with congenital heart disease was between 650,000 and 1.3 million, and the number rises each year. This means that a growing number of adults with congenital heart defects are receiving ICDs.
For patients with shock-related anxiety, early identification might lead to help such as education, treatment planning and referral to a mental health expert, the study authors said.
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about congenital heart defects.