TUESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- Life-saving implantable pacemakers or defibrillators pose a risk for developing deadly infections, a new study suggests.
More than 4.2 million people in the United States had a permanent pacemaker or defibrillator implanted between 1993 and 2008, and heart-device infections increased 210 percent during that time, according to the study.
"These infections tend to occur in very vulnerable patients who have other medical conditions that may partially contribute to developing an infection," said study author Dr. Andrew Wang, a cardiologist at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C.
Pacemakers help control abnormal heart rhythms. Defibrillators use shocks to help manage life-threatening heart-rhythm abnormalities that can cause sudden cardiac death.
The findings appear in the April 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Heart-device-related infections, which are caused by bacteria, grow more dangerous when they spread to the heart valve or other organs. Treating these infections requires prolonged antibiotic therapy, removal of the device and possibly device reimplantation, but repeat surgeries also can be risky. Hospital charges for this complication are at least $146,000, the authors said.
Researchers set out to determine how common and lethal these infections are, and which heart patients are at greatest risk. Using data from 61 centers in 28 countries, they found that of 2,760 people with an infection of the heart's lining or valves (endocarditis), an implantable heart device was the cause in 177 cases.
Endocarditis carries an increased risk of death compared to other heart-device-related infections.
Overall, device-related infections were more common in older men, who were about 71 on average. The infection reached the heart valve in 66 people in the study. Other complications
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