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Pacemaker and Defibrillator Lead Extraction

Although implantable cardiac devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators, are designed to be permanently implanted in the body, occasionally it is necessary to remove (extract) the leads. The most common reasons for lead extraction include:

  • An infection
  • A broken lead or a lead which is not functioning properly
  • A mechanical lead failure which could prove dangerous to the patient, such as a protruding wire

Sometimes a lead can be left inside the body, with a new lead implanted alongside it. However, veins can only contain a limited number of leads due to space constraints. As a result, sometimes non-functioning leads must be extracted in order to make space for a new lead.

How Cardiac Devices Work

One part of the device system is the pulse generator, a metal container which surrounds electrical circuits and a battery, which is usually placed under the skin on the chest wall beneath the patient’s collarbone. The device’s wires (or leads) run between the pulse generator and the heart. In a pacemaker, the leads allow the device to increase the patient’s heart rate by delivering small bursts of electrical energy to make the heart beat faster. In a defibrillator, the lead has special coils which deliver a high-energy shock to convert a dangerous heart rhythm (such as ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation) back to a normal heart rhythm.

In order to work correctly, the leads from a traditional cardiac device must be in contact with heart tissue. Most leads pass through a vein under the collarbone and into the right side of the heart (right atrium and right ventricle). To hold the lead in place inside of the heart, most leads have either a small screw or hooks at the end. Within a few months of implantation, the body forms scar tissue along the lead and at its tip, which helps keep it securely in place inside the patient’s body. Leads usually last longer than device batteries, so existing leads can often be reconnected to each new pulse generator (battery) at the time of the replacement.

Summa Health Cardiac Device Clinic

The Summa Health Cardiac Device Clinic monitors patients who have an implantable device, and helps your cardiologist learn valuable information about how your heart and the device are working. To learn more, call for an appointment today.


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.