On February 22, 2019, an Illinois medical malpractice wrongful death jury returned its verdict in the amount of $2.5 million in favor of the plaintiffs after one hour of jury deliberations to compensate the family of a man who died as a result of the laser extraction procedure used to remove his pacemaker.
The 64-year-old cardiac patient went to OSF Healthcare Saint Francis Medical Center (“OSF”) in Peoria, Illinois in July 2012 to have his pacemaker removed by laser extraction. He died in the hospital’s Cath Lab when his heart and his blood vessels were perforated by the laser.
OSF issued the following statement after the verdict: “We are disappointed in the outcome of the case as we believe we were able to provide the appropriate care. Our prayers are with the plaintiffs family.”
Laser Lead Extraction Procedure
When a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is implanted into a patient, wire leads are attached to the patient’s heart. When needed, these wire leads deliver an electric shock from the pulse generator directly to the heart. While the pulse generator may need to be replaced every four to ten years, the wire leads are rarely removed from the body. This is because scar tissue may develop around the leads, fusing them to the heart muscle. Sometimes, old leads may need to be removed because of infection or to make room for new leads that may be necessary. Source
UW Health describes the laser lead extraction procedure on its website: The laser lead extraction procedure takes two to four hours. A 5-centimeter incision is made on the left side of the chest, usually in the same place where the pacemaker/ICD incision was made. Through this incision, the battery is removed from the pacemaker/ICD and is disconnected from the lead. Then, the surgeon places a sheath inside the vein and over the lead that needs to be removed. The surgeon guides this sheath down to the tip of the lead, where it attaches to the heart. The sheath helps stabilize the heart muscle while the lead is removed.
The sheath is attached to a laser. The laser delivers energy to remove the scar tissue around the tip of the lead. This detaches the lead from the inside of the vein. After the scar tissue is removed, the doctor gently removes the lead from the heart and vein. The doctor then removes the laser and sheath.
The doctor may then implant a new lead and/or a new pacemaker/ICD right away, or this may be done at a later date, depending on the reasons for having the lead extraction in the first place. If there was an infection at the lead site, it is preferable to wait until the infection heals before placing new leads. After the procedure is complete, the doctor then closes the incision and applies bandages to the incision site.
Risks Of Lead Extraction
Life-threatening complications can occur during lead extraction, including tearing the veins that the leads travel through or perforating the heart muscle. In rare instances, open heart surgery may be needed to repair the injury. In a large study in which 3,258 patients underwent lead extraction, 25 (0.8%) patient’s required emergency surgery or other interventions due to life-threatening complications. The procedural mortality associated with lead extraction is 0.3%. Source
If you or a loved one suffered injury as a result of lead extraction that may be due to medical negligence in the United States, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your lead extraction injury for you and represent you or your loved one in a lead extraction medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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