-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Using a laser to remove
wires that connect implanted pacemakers and defibrillators to the
heart is as safe in patients aged 80 and older as in younger
patients, researchers report.
The findings should ease safety concerns and increase the use of
the procedure -- called laser lead extraction -- in octogenarians,
according to the study in the journal
Circulation: Arrhythmia & Electrophysiology.
People older than 65 account for 80 percent of patients with
implanted pacemakers and defibrillators. While most recipients have
no problems, about 1 to 2 percent develop infections or damaged
wires that require removal of the wires (leads).
This removal is usually accomplished with a gentle tug but this
can't be done in patients who have a large amount of natural
scarring caused by healing. These patients used to require
open-heart surgery, but a laser removal technique was introduced in
the late 1990s.
In this study, researchers examined the medical records of 506
patients who had laser lead extractions over a five-year period
ending in June 2009. There were 118 patients 80 and older and 388
patients younger than 80. All the patients received new leads
within one week of the removal of the old leads.
"We wanted to know if age was a risk factor in this procedure, and if octogenarians fare as well as younger patients," senior author Dr. Roger G. Carrillo, chief of surgical electrophysiology at the University of Miami Hospital, said in a journal news release. "We found no difference in risk."
Infection was the most common reason for lead extraction and
infection rates were similar for both groups, as were rates of high
blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease and congestive
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more
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