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Heart Devices Like Pacemakers Linked to Infections

Complications from these devices put patients at greater risk for death, study suggests

MONDAY, Sept. 12, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Implantable electronic devices such as pacemakers and certain defibrillators can help treat heart conditions and save lives, but these benefits may have to be weighed against potentially life-threatening and costly complications, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., found that people who develop an infection related to a cardiovascular implantable electronic device (CIED) are at greater risk for death. Infection related to one of these devices also results in higher health-care costs, including the price for hospital admissions, intensive care and pharmacy services.

In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed information on more than 200,000 patients who received a new cardiovascular implantable electronic device or had an old one replaced or fixed between January and December 2007.

The study, published online Sept. 12 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 5,817 of the patients were hospitalized with an infection. The researchers said the infections were associated with an increased risk of death. Depending on the type of device patients received, adjusted admission mortality rose from 4.6 percent to 11.3 percent, and long-term mortality increased from 26.5 percent to 35.1 percent.

The costs associated with these complications were also higher. "Intensive care and pharmacy services accounted for more than half of the incremental cost [for patients] with infection and could be targeted to reduce costs associated with management of CIED infection," Dr. Muhammad Sohail and colleagues explained in a journal news release.

The researchers noted that pacemakers, in particular, were associated with significantly greater increased costs than other types of cardiovascular implantable electronic devices.

The researchers said more research is needed to determine why CIEDs are associated with increased risk of death.

More information

The American Heart Association provides more information on cardiovascular implantable electronic device infections.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Sept. 12, 2011
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