Half the advice on implanted cardiac defibrillators from online message boards is inaccurate

Online message boards giving medical advice about implanted cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) are only accurate about half the time, according to research set to be presented at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2018.

Searching online for medical information is common, but the information patients find is often not entirely correct. In this study, researchers examined messages from an online board about ICDs to determine the accuracy of what is being presented to patients.

ICDs give the heart a shock of electricity in the event of potentially lethal arrhythmias to restore normal heart function. About 130,000 are implanted a year. Researchers in this study examined 127 discussions, 82 containing medical advice on cardiovascular disease, device programming and maintenance, physical activity restrictions and management of other health conditions to demine the amount of accurate data available to cardiac patients.

Results showed that only half of the information examined was accurate, 25 percent contained inappropriate advice and 6 percent of advice was labeled controversial. Regarding these findings, researchers stress the importance in clinicians following up with patients and providing informative sources to ensure they are making decisions backed by accurate data.

"The internet is a critical piece of the vast network of information available to patients, as Americans use the internet to understand their health all the time," said Christopher Knoepke, PhD, the study lead investigator and an instructor of cardiology at the University of Colorado Denver. "Our findings indicate that patients should be advised that discussions on these online message boards can provide some good, basic information, but more complicated and in-depth advice may be problematic. Clinicians should caution patients it's impossible for anyone not familiar with his or her case and full medical history to help put information into context for their individual patient need.”