Pacemaker wire fault kills two

A fault in a brand of heart pacemaker wire has killed two people and left two others needing heart surgery.

The Department of Health has issued a ''hazard'' warning to all health authorities, and cardiac specialists are having urgent talks about what to do.

The deaths were in Japan but about 1,100 British men and women with pacemakers could be at risk, Dr Anthony Nathan, cardiologist at St Bartholemew's Hosptial, London, said last night.

''We have not had a pacemaking problem like this before. Less than 1 per cent of pacemakers in the UK are affected. The risk is small but it does exist. We are concerned and very urgent work is going on to decide on the best course of action,'' said Dr Nathan, secretary of the British Pacing and Electro-physiology Group.

A J-shaped loop hooked into the heart tissue delivers an electric impulse from the pacemaker to make a patient's heart beat regularly. A tiny wire that supports the J-loop has fractured in 13 cases out of 42,000 of the pacemakers world-wide. All the potentially affected pacemakers were fitted in the past seven years.

Dr Nathan said that to the best of his knowledge no UK patients had been affected. In the four cases the support wire ''popped'' and made a hole in either the front or back of the heart, causing bleeding. All four patients suffered cardiac tamponade, the condition in which the heart becomes squashed because of a build-up of blood or fluid.

The pacemaker leads involved are Accufix Atrial J Pacing Leads, models 330-801, 033-812 and 329-701, made by Telectronics. ''Most patients have a pacemaker identity card with information about the leads printed on it, which they can check.

''At present we are contacting all patients and advising them to be calm while we decide on the next step,'' Dr Nathan said.

The problem facing cardiologists is that to remove the lead surgically may put patients at greater risk than leaving it in.

Dr Nathan said: ''The difficulty is that it is screwed into the heart tissue and is very hard indeed to remove. There is a risk of tearing the heart, which could kill a patient.''

He said they were now gathering all the information available on the best way to X-ray those patients who are fitted with the leads, to see if they can then establish which patients may be at risk.

''The problem then is: how often should we X-ray? - every three days, every three weeks of every three months? If the lead is going to fracture, when will it happen?''

Heart pacemakers were first fitted in 1957. They are implanted in the chest and run on batteries, which are replaced in a minor operation. Between 13,000 and 14,000 pacemakers are fitted in the UK each year with a total of about 20,000 leads.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam