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Pacemakers killing half of heart patients who have them fitted

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Pacemakers are seen as life-savers-but they may not be as effective, or as safe, as heart patients are told. In fact, they may even be causing fatal heart attacks because of malfunctioning problems, a new study has found.

Many patients are dying from their heart problems, even though they have a pacemaker or defibrillator fitted, say researchers from the University of California at San Francisco.

The devices may even be contributing to the deaths, but it’s not being picked up by doctors or regulators because around 90 per cent of all heart deaths occur outside a hospital and so the true cause is rarely known.

The researchers looked at the post mortem reports of sudden deaths in the San Francisco area over a 35-month period. Of 517 sudden deaths, 22-or 4.3 per cent-had a pacemaker or defibrillator fitted, and half of these may well have been caused by the device malfunctioning.

In a separate review involving 712 San Franciscans with a heart device fitted, 109 died in the three years of the study, and 6.4 per cent of the deaths were directly related to a malfunction problem.

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2015; June 2015; doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.2641)

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