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Reused pacemakers give new life to poor cardiac patients

Donate your heart pacemaker and save a precious life! A leading hospital in the capital,which is experimenting with the idea,has successfully implanted used pacemakers in seven economically-weaker patients.

Donate your heart pacemaker and save a precious life! A leading hospital in the capital,which is experimenting with the idea,has successfully implanted used pacemakers in seven economically-weaker patients.

Estimated between Rs 70,000 to Rs two lakh,pacemakers – vital for saving lives of people with cardiac disorders – are beyond the reach of poor patients.

Sir Ganga Ram Hospital,whose cardiac department finds place in the Limca Book of records for carrying out maximum cardiac surgeries without any mortality,has been using donated pacemakers after proper sterilisation to reuse them in poor patients.

The hospital had received seven requests from families saying they wanted to donate pacemakers used by their relatives that could be used for poor patients,a challenge accepted by doctors.

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“The functional status of the pulse generators was tested by a pacing system analyser. The clinical indications for reuse were chronic complete heart block,symptomatic bifascicular heart block,sick sinus syndrome and chronic complete heart block with congestive heart failure,in decreasing order of frequency,” Dr Aman Makhija,Associate Consultant in the Cardiology department,said.

In terms of morbidity and mortality,he said,the efficacy of reused pacemakers was comparable with that of newly implanted ones and infections can be contained with the aid of new generation of antimicrobial medicines.

“Small gestures like these of donating costly life saving devices like pacemakers will go a long way in helping save precious lives of patients from under privileged sections of our society,” Associate Consultant,Department of Cardiology Dr Sawhney said.


A new pacemaker has a life of 8-10 years. Once a heart patient dies,the pacemaker is switched off and then it can be reused for another patient depending on the remaining battery life,he said.

“Only if the battery still has a life of 3-4 years that we offer the device to other patients,” Dr Makhija said.

Pacemaker manufacturers,meanwhile,have raised concern over such a move saying it was risky and the practice was not followed in developed nations. However,doctors not only from the hospital but those from the field of cardiology contest the claims.


According to renowned cardiologist Dr U Kaul,Director of Cardiology,Fortis Group of Hospitals,reuse of pacemakers can help save poor lives.

At the same time,he said,the whole process should be done with precautions.

“The pacemaker should be sterilised and cleaned before reusing it. Battery life and functioning should be evaluated. It is being done and is safe,” Dr Kaul said.

“If a poor patient cannot afford to have a new pacemaker then it is better to reuse pacemaker and save life.”

Given the issues of affordability,accessibility,and quality of health care,mortality rates from heart diseases are much higher in the economically underprivileged population.


According to a study in journal of Association of Physicians of India,the mortality rate due to Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) was 5.5 per cent for the rich,while that for the poor was 8.2 per cent.

An estimated 1-2 million people die worldwide each year due to lack of access to pacemakers,a report says.


In a pilot project in India,a research team headed by Dr Bharat Kantharia of The University of Texas Medical School at Houston,had retrieved pacemakers from the dead after taking consent from families of deceased,refurbished them and implanted them in patients who could not afford the device,at Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai.

The result of the project were published online as a study titled ‘Reuse of Explanted Permanent Pacemakers Donated by Funeral Homes’ in the American Journal of Cardiology.


During the seven-year span of the project which started in 2004,121 used pacemakers were brought to Mumbai,of which 37 were implanted in new patients and 16 in patients who needed their pacemakers replaced.

After a follow-up of 661 days,none of the 53 patients were found to have suffered complications like infection or device failure,the study had said.

First published on: 23-09-2012 at 22:05 IST
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