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Reuse of Explanted Permanent Pacemakers Donated by Funeral Homes

Published:October 14, 2011DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjcard.2011.08.036
      Poor patients in developing countries may not receive permanent pacemakers (PPMs) even as lifesaving measures because of their high cost. In this report we examined whether PPMs that were explanted and donated by funeral homes in the United States could be safely and effectively reused in indigent patients in India. With permission from the deceased patients' families, 121 PPMs were explanted and donated by funeral homes for reuse. These PPMs were sterilized and sent for implantation in needy and indigent patients at a charity hospital in Mumbai, India. From the pool of donated 121 PPMs, 53 (88%, 11 single-chamber PPMs, 21%, and 42 dual-chamber PPMs, 79%) were acceptable for reuse and implanted (37 new implants, 70%, and 16 for battery/generator replacement, 30%) in 53 patients (mean ± SD 64 ± 10 years old, 28 women, 53%). Indications for PPM implantation were complete heart block (n = 27, 51%) and sick sinus syndrome (n = 26, 49%). All patients were alive and well postoperatively. No significant complications including infections or device failures occurred over 19 to 1,827 days (mean 661) of follow-up. Of 40 patients (75%) who were followed locally, 4 (10%) died because of nonpacemaker-related causes; time to death was 121 to 750 days (mean 430) after PPM implantation. All except 2 patients (5%) reported marked improvement in their symptoms. There were only 4 patients (8%) who were previously employed, and all were able to resume their manual labor work. Also, of the women, 27 patients (96%) reported improvement in symptoms enabling them to resume regular household chores as housewives after PPM implantation. In conclusion, with proper device sterilization and handling protocols, reuse of explanted PPMs in poor patients in developing countries is safe and effective. Implantation of donated PPMs can not only save lives but also improve quality of life of needy poor patients.
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