Conference Coverage

Extraction of infected implanted cardiac devices rare, despite guidelines



The rates of infection involving cardiac implanted electronic devices (CIEDs), like pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), are substantial, but only a minority of patients in the United States receive the guideline-directed recommendation of device removal, according to data from a Medicare population.

The study was conducted on the hypothesis that adherence to guidelines were low, “but we were surprised by how low the extraction rates turned out to be,” Sean D. Pokorney, MD, an electrophysiologist at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, N.C., reported at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology.

The major U.S. and European guidelines are uniform in recommending complete extraction for a CIED infection. The American Heart Association and the Heart Rhythm Society and two out of the three other guidelines cited by Dr. Pokorney not only recommend extraction but specify prompt extraction.

Neither complete extraction nor prompt extraction are typical.

Of the 11,619 CIED infection cases identified in the Medicare database, 18.2% underwent extraction within 30 days of diagnosis. Only 13% were extracted within 6 days.

Lack of extraction may cause avoidable mortality

The result is likely to be avoidable mortality. Among those with extraction within 30 days, 80% were still alive 1 year later. Survival at 1 year fell to 67.6% in those without an extraction within this time frame.

This translated to a 22% lower rate of death at 1 year (hazard ratio, 0.78; P = .008) in those who underwent extraction within 30 days.

For those in whom the device was extracted within 7 days, the associated HR for death at 1 year was more than 40% lower (HR, 0.59; P < .001), reported Dr. Pokorney, who characterized these reductions as occurring in “a dose-response fashion.”

The very high risk of relapse despite antibiotics is the reason that “there is a class 1 indication for complete hardware removal,” Dr. Pokorney. He cited five studies that addressed this question. With partial device removal or medical therapy alone, relapse was consistently 50% or greater. In one study, it was 67%. In another it was 100%.

With complete removal, the rate of infection relapse was 1% or lower in four. In the fifth, the rate was 4.2%.

Infections can occur early or late after implantation, but cases accumulate over time. In the Medicare data sample, infection rates climbed from 0.3% at 1 year to 0.6% at 2 years and then to 1.1% at 3 years, Dr. Pokorney reported.

Other studies have also shown a steady increase in the proportion of implanted devices associated with infection over time. In a cohort study conducted in Olmstead County, Minnesota, the cumulative probability of a CIED infection reached 6.2% after 15 years and 11.7% after 25 years. While about half of these were infections localized to the device pocket, the others were potentially life-threatening systemic infections, according to Dr. Pokorney, who cited this study.

In his analysis of the Medicare data, all fee-for-service patients receiving a first CIED implant over a period of 14 years were included. The 14-year period ended just before the COVID-19 epidemic.

The more than 11,000 CIED infections were identified in 1,065,549 total CIED patients. Most (72%) had received a pacemaker. Of the others , more than half received an ICD and the others received a cardiac resynchronization device. The median age was 78 years.


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