Ask the doctor: What should you do if your pacemaker or implanted defibrillator is recalled?

Ask the doctor

What should you do if your pacemaker or implanted defibrillator is recalled?

If you have a pacemaker or other implanted heart device, news every few weeks about implantable defibrillators that short-circuit, pacemakers with wires that break, or defibrillators with batteries that run out too soon are enough to make your heart skip a beat — except your device won't let that happen.

A high-profile recall occurred in June 2005, when the Guidant Corporation reported that nearly 50,000 implantable defibrillators were at risk for possible malfunctions. Problems with a small number of several defibrillator models were tied to two deaths. People immediately started calling their doctors, worried about whether their defibrillators were the ones affected. The chaos increased when Guidant announced that a faulty switch might affect the function of other models.

A few months earlier, Medtronic — a competitor of Guidant — recalled about 100,000 defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization defibrillators because of faulty batteries.

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