Helping people with pacemakers

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Every time a pacemaker or defibrillator is implanted, there is a risk of infection developing. 

Doctors can treat that life-threatening condition in some of the most fragile patients. 

Ninety-year-old Muriel smith is a patient and says, “My heart was skipping beats. Even in my sleep, it was skipping four and five beats.” 

Her first pacemaker was implanted 30 years ago to regulate her heart arrhythmia.  

These devices have wires, which bind to the blood vessels over time and can become severely infected.  

She says, “It was all red and you could tell it was infected because around the edges it was red and puffy looking. They rushed me to the hospital and they took me to surgery. For awhile, nobody thought I was going to make it.” 

Dr. Valay Parikh at Baptist Health System, San Antonio says, “In about one percent of people infection happens attached with the leads and wires. It can happen in the pocket because we are all surrounded with bacteria. We use new technology like laser lead extraction materials. We open the pocket. We clean the pocket and take care of the infection in the pocket.” 

In the trickiest part, the doctor extracts the lead wires using laser technology.

Smith says, “I had tissue all around that thing so they had to cut it out and once the pacemaker and infected leads were out, they stayed out. I don’t want to have any more surgery. I’m satisfied. I just want to be well enough to see my kids happy.” “

An infection can make it a quick trip from the primary infection to poisoning the bloodstream.

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