This year, more than 356,000 people in the U.S. will experience cardiac arrest.

Thousands of people will have a pacemaker or a defibrillator implanted to shock their heart back into action, but both come with complications.

Now, new technology may prove to make your heartbeat a little easier.

Joe Mulligan, 84, lives and breathes for the Fighting Irish! As a 1959 alum, Mulligan gives tours of the campus, sings in the choir and of course, never misses a game. In fact, it was 10 years ago when…

“The weekend of the Notre Dame/Navy game, and I got up that morning and felt terrible,” Mulligan said.

That was the first sign of his first cardiac arrest. Five years later, it happened again.

“When the heart stops pumping blood, there’s no blood going to the brain. And within about five to 10 seconds, the patient will collapse,” said Bradley Knight, MD, Electrophysiologist, Northwestern Medicine, Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.

Traditionally, Mulligan would be given an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or ICD. It uses thin wires, or leads, that are placed directly into the heart to deliver electric currents if Mulligan’s heart stops again.

“They’re electrical cables surrounded by insulation. And over time, these leads have the potential to break or to fail,” Dr. Knight said.

NorthWestern electrophysiologist Bradley Knight instead used a first-of-its-kind extravascular implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or EVICD, the difference? It doesn’t place wires directly into the heart.

“A major advantage of that approach is that the lead is now under the bone, not on top of the bone. The energy it takes to shock the heart is significantly lower,” Dr. Knight explained.

A worldwide clinical trial found that EVICD was 98% effective. Ninety-two percent of patients experienced no major complications. The new ICD lasts up to 11 years, compared to eight years for the traditional one, using less electricity with less risk of blockage of veins and blood infections.

“Most patients who receive an appropriate shock for a cardiac arrest are lifesaving. They would not have survived that event without an implantable defibrillator,” Dr. Knight said.

Using cellular data or Wi-Fi, the EVICD also tracks if the device is ever used. Last year, Mulligan didn’t even realize it, but his heart stopped again. The EVICD shocked his heart back into motion and alerted his doctor.

“So far, it’s saved my life once,” Mulligan went on to say.

And now, Mulligan is looking forward to many more games, celebrating his team and his life.