Used pacemakers can save lives -- especially for those in poor countries who would otherwise die without the devices, a U.S. study has found.
It turns out that a significant number of people in the U.S. die with a functional pacemaker, according to researchers. Many of the devices are simply buried with the body, or thrown away as medical waste.
For the study, pacemakers with more than three years' worth of battery life left were collected, partially sterilized, then sent to a hospital in Mumbai, India, where they were again sterilized and implanted into 53 heart patients. All 53 patients survived the surgery, Bharat Kantharia of the University of Texas Health Science Center reported in the American Journal of Cardiology. In addition, there was no incidence of infection or device malfunction for the 40 patients who were monitored for up to two years after the surgery.
"All we are saying is there are people who need a pacemaker and would not otherwise get one," Kantharia said. "Maybe this will help them live a normal life."
The Food and Drug Administration has approved pacemakers for one-time only use in the U.S. Researchers would like to get FDA approval to study the effectiveness of the recycled devices overseas.
"This study is suggestive that it's safe," said Thomas Crawford, an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Michigan. "But definitive data is not available yet."