Heart devices linked to higher mortality, infection

Despite life-saving goals, devices such as implantable pacemakers or defibrillators are actually a source of deadly infections, according a study published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As more than 4.2 million U.S patients had a permanent pacemaker or defibrillator implanted between 1993 and 2008, heart-device infections jumped 210 percent, the study showed, HealthDay reported.

After examining data from 61 centers in 28 countries, researchers found that of 2,760 patients with endocarditis, an infection of the heart's lining or valves, 177 cases involved implanted cardiac devices. Moreover, 81 of the patients with an implanted cardiac device had a healthcare-associated infection.

However, other factors, including length of stay and medical procedures unrelated to the device, also increased the risk of infection, MedPage Today reported.

According to researchers, patients with heart-device-related infections had higher mortality rates. For adults hospitalized with cardiac device infective endocarditis (CDIE), the in-hospital and 1-year mortality rates were 14.7 percent and 23.2 percent, respectively, the study states.

"The high rates of mortality emphasize the need for improved preventive measures, including optimal skin decontamination and appropriate antibiotic administration at the time of cardiac device insertion or manipulation, as well as careful attention to any invasive or intravascular procedures performed after device implantation," researchers wrote, MedPage noted.

In addition to increased morbidity and mortality, researchers also pointed out the high healthcare costs associated with heart-device-related infections. In fact, CDIE complications can cost at least $146,000, according to HealthDay.

Meanwhile, a study last month eased growing concerns regarding medical device safety. It found that commercially available monitoring software could catch problems with implantable devices before they harm patients.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the HealthDay article
- read the MedPage Today article