Worrisome results, in a study of patients with implanted pacemakers, have been published by a group of cardiologists from the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports:
Patients with pacemakers are at significantly higher risk of dying of heart failure than those without the devices, according to a study released yesterday by New Jersey researchers.
The findings are based on a study by a team of cardiologists at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. They examined the medical records of more than 11,000 New Jersey patients who had pacemakers implanted between 1997 and 1999. The patients, none of whom had prior diagnoses of heart failure, were followed until 2001, with the median length of time 33 months.
What the cardiologists found is that deaths from heart failure — which happens when the heart isn’t pumping enough blood — occurred in 81 patients with pacemakers, compared with 53 patients in the control group who didn’t have pacemakers implanted. The study also found that heart failure-related hospitalizations were more common among the pacemaker group.
Their research appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.
Lead investigator Ronald S. Freudenberger, the physician who directs the heart failure program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, theorized that the presence of the device actually alters the timing of contractions of the heart’s chambers, completely changing the synchronization.
However, Freudenberger stressed that more study is needed and that until a better treatment is available for people with abnormally slow heart rhythms, patients should not hesitate to receive a pacemaker.
In the study, 20 percent of the patients with pacemakers were hospitalized for heart failure, compared with 12.5 percent of those in the group without pacemakers. Freudenberger said a significant increase in heart failure-related events was seen as early as six months after implantation. Heart failure, which can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, affects about 5 million Americans and leads to more than 3.5 million hospitalizations a year.
No abstract of the study is available yet at the American Journal of Cardiology website…