Heart Devices Lead to Increased Infections

Cardiac devices including pacemakers raise infection risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Heart devices such as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators designed to regulate heart rhythm have become safe and commonplace. Despite that, patients with such cardiac devices may be more prone to infections.

Patients with implanted electrophysical heart devices are at a higher risk of acquiring an infection during the lifetime of the device.

"Talk to a cardiologist about the risks and benefits of heart devices."

Dr. Arnold J. Greenspon, lead study author, professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and director of cardiac electrophysiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, said that an increase in the number of patients with more than one disease or condition may be playing a large role in the higher number of infections.

He noted that the patients are sicker, which puts them at a greater risk of infection. White men over the age of 65 are at the highest risk for infection, he said.

Jefferson, in collaboration with Drexel University and consulting firm Exponent, reviewed data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a national database of hospital discharge records, between 1993 and 2008.

While analyzing the records, they noticed a significant increase in infections related to heart devices such as pacemakers. The number of incidents increased 210 percent over the 16-year study period.

Researchers also found a significant jump in infections after 2004. Most of those patients had a heart device and one or more conditions that include renal failure, respiratory failure, heart failure or diabetes. Additionally, the use of such cardiac devices has increased by 96 percent, possibly contributing to the rise in infections.

Dr. Greenspon said that a better understanding of the risk factors for infection will improve patient care and could reduce prolonged hospital stays that often result.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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Review Date: 
August 22, 2011
Last Updated:
August 23, 2011