Study Aims to Further Reduce Heart Device Infections

Each year, more than one million people worldwide receive a heart device – either a pacemaker or defibrillator. Now, research is showing a new, effective way to prevent against infection when receiving these heart-regulating devices.

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CLEVELAND -Each year, more than one million people worldwide receive a heart device – either a pacemaker or defibrillator – to help regulate their heart rhythm.

Now, new research shows when a cardiac device is wrapped in a special antibiotic-coated envelope, infection rates drop significantly.

Cleveland Clinic’s Khaldoun Tarakji, M.D., M.P.H., led the study and said even though infections are rare, when they do occur, they can lead to additional surgery, hospitalization, or in some cases death.

“Infection is not something you can treat with antibiotics alone; it’s the consequences of the infection which make us feel very concerned about it when it happens,” he said. 

Researchers studied nearly 7,000 people from 25 countries and followed them for at least one year.

All participants were given standard antibiotics prior to surgery. Half of the group received the special antibiotic envelope, while the other half did not.

Results show the antibiotic envelope reduced infections by 40 percent.

Authors noted that overall infections were low in the study, but said the envelope still provided a significant benefit.

Dr. Tarakji said adding an antibiotic envelope to standard pacemaker and defibrillator surgery may make these common procedures even safer by reducing infections.

“To prove that there’s an additional intervention, an additional therapy, which you can provide as a preventive measure, and was able to cut down the risk by 40 percent is really remarkable,” he said. 

Complete results of the study can be found in The New England Journal of Medicine. The data was also recently presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting.

EDITORS NOTE: Dr. Tarakji is a paid advisor for Medtronic, maker of the envelope.

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