Overall risk is low, but patients should consult with their doctors
MONDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- On Monday, Medtronic -- a leading maker of implantable defibrillators -- voluntarily stopped distribution of Sprint Fidelis electronic leads for the devices, because it said the wires could fracture, potentially triggering cardiac events.
The news may have hundreds of thousands of Americans with implanted defibrillators wondering what to do next.
But experts said that for most patients, there's certainly no need to panic.
The electronic leads in question are small electronic wires implanted into the heart that send out information on the heart's rhythm to the defibrillator. According to Medtronic, a fractured lead could result in the defibrillator delivering an unnecessary electrical jolt to the heart, or failing to deliver a shock when it's actually needed.
Defective Sprint Fidelis leads have been implicated in hundreds of malfunctions and may have played a role in five deaths, according to The New York Times.
Right now, Minneapolis-based Medtronic is recommending against implanting these leads in any new patients. But the company -- along with many heart rhythm experts -- is not advising that the leads be removed from patients who already have them.
There are some 268,000 Sprint Fidelis leads currently in use, either in defibrillators made by Medtronic or in those made by other manufacturers.
"This is an important problem," said Dr. Douglas Zipes, a past president and spokesman for the American College of Cardiology. "Anyone with a defective lead now has to have that lead removed and replaced," he said.
That said, Zipes believes that most people will have properly functioning leads and will not need to have them replaced. Anyone with a Sprint Fidelis lead should have it checked out by their doctor, however.
"If the lead is functioning no
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