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September 30, 1961

Use of External Electric Countershock in the Treatment of Ventricular Tachycardia

JAMA. 1961;177(13):916-918. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.73040390010012

ELECTRIC countershock applied to the closed chest has been successfully used to terminate ventricular fibrillation and prefibrillatory ventricular tachycardia.1-3 Generally, this technique has been employed as an emergency measure in the unconscious patient with Adams-Stokes disease in the absence of other therapeutic alternatives. No reports exist on the deliberate use of external countershock as an elective procedure to control episodes of ventricular tachycardia in the conscious patient. The following experiences illustrate its effectiveness in the treatment of ventricular tachycardia resistant to drug therapy.

Report of a Case  A 59-year-old man entered the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Dec. 1, 1960, with the chief complaint of palpitations, shortness of breath, and profuse sweating of 24-hours duration. In 1949 he sustained an acute myocardial infarction. Six years later he first noted the onset of paroxysmal rapid heart action. In September, 1960, the attacks increased in frequency, often lasting many hours, and