A team of researchers from the U.S. and India reviewed the reuse of pacemakers that were donated to poor people in Mumbai when the original owners in the U.S. passed away. The FDA does not permit reuse of implantable devices, but India has no such qualms.
The study involved 53 patients and two years following implantation, the devices continued working as intended without any significant complications nor did any infections occur due to the transplant. Of four patients who were previously employed, all were able to return to their manual jobs. Twenty-seven women said their symptoms had improved enough so they could resume household chores.
From an announcement by Loyola University Medical Center:
Researchers reported that between January 2004 and January 2010, 121 pacemakers were removed and donated. (The devices were made by Medtronic, St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific.) Sixty pacemakers were selected because they had a battery life greater than three years, but seven were discarded due to further decay in battery life. The remaining 53 pacemakers were rigorously cleaned and sterilized. They were sent to Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai, which serves all patients, regardless of income.
The authors conclude that reusing pacemakers could “alleviate the burden of symptomatic bradyarrhythmia (abnormally slow heart rate) in impoverished nations around the world.”
Abstract in The American Journal of Cardiology: Reuse of Explanted Permanent Pacemakers Donated by Funeral Homes
Image credit: Marek Pokorny