Do you know what a pacemaker is? It’s a tiny device that doctors put into people’s bodies to help their hearts beat normally.
About 3 million people in the United States have one. But sometimes, problems can pop up after a pacemaker is put in.
What Kind of Problems?
Have you ever had a cut that turned into a scar? Or have you heard of blood clots?
These can happen around the thin wires, called leads, that connect the pacemaker to the heart. These issues can make it hard for blood to flow properly and can cause pain or swelling.
Why Should We Care?
This problem is known as lead-related venous obstruction or LRVO for short. It’s been hard for doctors to figure out how often LRVO happens, and it can really impact a person’s life.
A Closer Look at Pacemakers
What does a pacemaker do, exactly? Its job is to send electrical signals to the heart. These signals help the heart keep a steady rhythm.
If the heart beats too slowly or irregularly, a pacemaker can fix that. It can make a huge difference in a person’s life!
But there’s a catch. The pacemaker needs to be connected to the heart. That’s where the leads come in.
They’re like little wires that carry the electrical signals from the pacemaker to the heart. And that’s where we can sometimes see problems like scar tissue or blood clots.
What Did The Researchers Find?
A team of doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center looked at this issue.
They studied a lot of people—nearly 650,000—who had a pacemaker put in between 2016 and 2020. All of these people were 65 or older and on Medicare.
Guess what they found? Five out of every 100 people (that’s 5%) had LRVO within five years of getting a pacemaker. That’s more than 28,000 people!
They also discovered that some people had a higher chance of getting LRVO. These included people who had kidney disease or anemia, and people who were Black.
Also, people who had more than one lead in their pacemaker were more likely to get LRVO.
How Do Doctors Deal With LRVO?
This might surprise you, but most of the time (85% of the time, to be exact), doctors didn’t do anything to fix the LRVO. They just watched and waited.
Some people (15%) did have a treatment, though. Most of these people (75% of them) had their pacemakers taken out.
So what can we do about all this? The doctors who did the study say we need to do more research.
They want to figure out the best ways to handle LRVO. And they want to make sure that any treatments they come up with are safe and actually help people.
One thing they noticed was that very few people who had their pacemakers removed got a new one.
A tiny number (just over 2%) got a special kind of pacemaker that goes right inside the heart and doesn’t need leads. This could be a good way to avoid LRVO, but more research is needed.
The bottom line is that we need to pay more attention to LRVO. It’s more common than we thought, and it can cause real problems for people with pacemakers.
We need to find the best ways to treat it, and we need to make sure everyone—including patients and doctors—understands what’s going on. This study is a big step in the right direction!
If you care about heart health, please read studies about an important cause of heart disease, and many common meds could harm your heart rhythm.
If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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