1,100 'fitted with dangerous pacemakers'

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The Independent Online
A new hazard has been identified for cardiac patients fitted with a heart pacemaker known to have a potentially dangerous electrode, writes Celia Hall

When operating on a 15 year old boy to remove such a broken part, cardiologists at Guy's Hospital, London, using a very sophisticated scanning procedure, found a blood clot which may have been a consequence of the damage caused by the faulty electrode.

They removed the clot and the electrode in an open heart operation, but warn that if they had removed the electrode through a vein - the way in which it was originally inserted - the clot would have been left behind as a potentially fatal hazard.

In the UK 1,100 patients have a pacemaker fitted with the Accufix- J electrode made by Telectronics of America. Last December the Department of Health issued a hazard warning after two Americans had died.The company has identified a 12 per cent fracture rate.

The broken part can pierce heart tissue, but removing the electrode is itself a risky procedure. However, UK cardiologists are recommending removing them whether they have fractured or not.

Dr Neil Sulke, of Guy's, said yesterday that all British patients with the Accufix electrode pacemakers had been identified and will be contacted if they have not been already.