Pacemakers From Deceased Donors Are Proven Effective And Safe When Reused

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In India, many patients with cardiac implications cannot afford pacemakers because of poverty. Pacemakers usually cost $ 2,200- $ 6,600. However, it was found out in a research the effectiveness and safety of removed pacemakers from deceased Americans, which were resterilized and implanted in Indian patients. Dr. Gaurav Kulkarni of Loyola University Medical Center (a co-author of the study) aided in performing the research when he was still a medical student in India.

Families of deceased donors from America donated pacemakers to 53 poor patients, who were suffering from severe heart rhythm disorders like complete heart block and sick sinus syndrome.  The patients usually experienced difficulty in breathing and exhaustion with the slightest physical exertion. They would have died within weeks or months, without the pacemakers. After the reimplantation of the devices to the Indian patients, they were all alive and living well, cited by the researchers.

The donations of pacemakers started as a philanthropic project. Then, physicians decided to study formally the effectiveness and safety of the reused devices. Informed consent was given by the patients for every step of the research. After they received the donated devices, they were examined for an average of nearly two years. No infections, complications, device failures were noted. All except two patients affirmed that they experienced significant improvement in their condition.

All four patients, who were employed previously, were able to return to their jobs. Meanwhile, twenty-seven women elaborated that their symptoms improved gradually and they could already resume doing household chores. According to researchers, more than saving lives, the donated pacemakers helped in improving the quality of life of poor patients.

Kulkarni, who was a medical student at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai at the time of the study, interviewed and collected data from the patients prior to and after receiving the donated devices. He noticed a dramatic change in the condition of the patients.

The Food and Drug Administration in the US prohibits reuse of pacemakers, but in other countries, no prohibition is made against donation and reuse of these. Furthermore, researchers said that 121 pacemakers were removed and donated from January 2004 to January 2010. Sixty pacemakers, with a battery life greater than three years, were chosen. Seven were discarded because f further decay in battery life. The remaining 53 devices underwent thorough cleaning and sterilization, and were sent to the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai.

Previous studies about reused pacemakers were done, but there was only one previous research regarding reuse of donated pacemakers from the US. This study involved 12 patients in the Philippines.

The authors of the study include Kulkarni (now, a first year resident at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Department of Surgery), Bharat K. Kantharia, MD (from University of Texas Health Science Center), Sandeep S. Patel, MD (from Louisiana State University), Arti N. Shah, MD (from Mouont Sinai Medical School), Yash Lokhandwala, MD (From Holy Family Hospital), Erica Mascarenhas (from Notre Dame of Bethlehem School), and  Daniel A.N. Mascarenhas, MD (from Drexel University College of Medicine).

According to the authors, reusing pacemakers can ease symptomatic bradyarrhythmia (abnormally slow cardiac rate) in poor countries in the world. Moreover, they are very much thankful to donors, family members, volunteers and all who helped in this charitable project for the welfare of impoverished patients, who need permanent pacemakers, in India.


Reusing pacemakers, pacemakers from deceased donors



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