What’s not to like?
Last year we reported on a study suggesting that pacemakers could be explanted from deceased Americans and distributed in India. That article can be found here and in it the referenced author talks about how fifty three “poor” Indians from Mumbai were given pacemakers donated by the families of deceased Americans. The products in question were identified as coming from St.Jude, Medtronic and Boston Scientific and in all cases were deemed to have greater than three years battery life remaining. In all cases they were cleaned, sterilised and re-implanted with favourable clinical outcomes and no incidences of infection or other problem.
One interesting statistic from that study was that of the explanted units less than 50% fulfilled the functional criteria.
In a new piece of work reported by Reuters, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania started with a population of 334 (the number of autopsies performed between February 2009 and July 2011) and ended up with 27 pacemakers and ICDs, eight of which had more than their target for re-use of 4 years battery life remaining.
“There are a lot of devices that we could potentially tap into if we just got the message across,” said Dr. Thomas Crawford, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor.
Initiatives already exist
According to the Reuters piece, Dr Crawford, who was not part of the new research, is involved with Project My Heart Your Heart, a program at the University of Michigan that’s collecting used devices from patients and funeral directors to be someday donated to developing countries – with the patients’ or patients families’ consent.
So far, the project has collected over 9,000 devices – 15 percent of them with over four years of remaining battery life.
Manufacturers not so keen on the idea
What’s interesting is the response of the manufacturers to these initiatives. It seems they are not entirely supportive of reuse, statements emailed to Reuters Health by Medtronic and St. Jude Medical, Inc citing concerns over cleanliness and sterilisation.
Both companies also stated that they already donate new, unused devices to charities around the world.