Frayed Leads

I’ve been following this story for quite a while.

Doctors and the company are now trying to understand the scope of the problem, but experts say it is extremely distressing because the wires are particularly dangerous to remove and also may pose dangers if they are left in.

Luckily for me, my leads aren’t St. Jude’s and I only have a dual-lead pacer, not an ICD. Still, I count on my leads to do the job they are supposed to, so when I hear about issues with pacemaker leads, my ears really perk up. While a pacemaker is easily replaced every seven years or so, the leads are not.  When a pacemaker is put in, the ends of the leads are embedded in the heart.   It takes several weeks for the heart to seal over the ends of the leads with scar tissue, but once that has happened, the leads should be good to go for a long, long time. Removing defective leads is a big deal, and in fact, if leads need to be replaced, more often than not, the old leads are just left in place to avoid damage to the heart where they are embedded.


5 thoughts on “Frayed Leads

  1. I can see how that would perk your ears up.

    Can they check the coating without resorting to surgery? I’m thinking signal strength, remote monitoring for “leaks”, etc., or do you actually have to look at the coating to determine if there is a problem.

    Also, I was wondering if the pacemaker has self-diagnostic functions to monitor performance, or is it pretty much a “dumb” component?


    1. The pacemaker is an amazing device, really. Like a little computer in my chest it constantly monitors my heart rate, kicks in when it needs to, and saves data when I have rhythm issues. I go into my doctor to have my pacer “interrogated” about every three months or so and the readout provides graphs, ekgs, etc, for my cardiologist. So, no, not a “dumb” component. At the interrogation the technician checks my leads, but from what I can tell, that check doesn’t tell if leads are frayed, only if they are working as they should. Fraying can only be determined by some kind of imaging technology.


  2. I knew about the heart data, but was wondering about power loss, feedback on transmission, etc. that would relate to the actual operation of the system.

    Then again, I imagine the power needs are quite small, and even smaller deviations might not even show up.

    Anyway, thanks for the answer. “working as they should” is all that really matters.


    1. Feedback on power loss, transmission, etc, I think so. The readout is able to tell how much battery life is left on the pacer, and as I said, they do check the wires to make sure they are functioning properly. Not sure if that answers your question. Beyond that, all I can say is that I don’t know what the pacemaker is able to provide in terms of operation.


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