ANN ARBOR, Mich. Millions worldwide die each year because they can't afford a pacemaker. Meanwhile heart patients in the United States say they'd be willing to donate theirs after death to someone in need.
In the current issue of Circulation, experts at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center examine the legality and logistics of collecting pacemakers, after they are removed for burial or cremation, for sterilization and reuse across the globe.
Small humanitarian efforts have shown reusing pacemakers is safe and effective with little risk of infection and patients live as long, and as well, with a recycled pacemaker as those who get new ones, authors say.
It's a novel approach for treating cardiovascular disease which remains the world's leading cause of death.
"Establishing a validated pacemaker reutilization program could transform a currently wasted resource into an opportunity for a new life for many citizens in the world," says study senior author Kim A. Eagle, M.D., cardiologist and a director of the U-M Cardiovascular Center.
Each year 1 million to 2 million people worldwide die due to lack of access to pacemakers. But 84 percent of patients surveyed at the UM would donate their pacemaker for reuse.
Through partnerships, the U-M hopes to make the concept of recycling pacemakers a life-saving reality for those who cannot afford them.
Pacemakers are implanted to correct a slow heartbeat. A slow heart rate can be caused by heart attacks, conductive diseases or old age and lead to fainting and fatigue.
Some foreign manufacturers have reduced the cost of pacemakers to as little as $800, a price that still makes it out of reach in poor nations.
"Despite the substantial cost reduction, a new pacemaker is often more than the annual income of the average worker in underdeveloped nations," Eagle says.
Poor nations have not been able to afford the electro
|Contact: Shantell M. Kirkendoll|
University of Michigan Health System