Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Setting standards for pacemaker and ICD lead extraction

Heart Beat

Setting standards for pacemaker and ICD lead extraction

The explosive growth in the number of people needing a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) each year has given rise to the need for another procedure — removing broken or damaged leads (pronounced leeds). These are the wires that connect the device, which is usually implanted just under the collarbone, with the heart. Pacemaker leads deliver small, carefully timed shocks to make the heart beat at a predetermined rate; ICD leads deliver bigger shocks that jolt the heart out of a potentially lethal rhythm. Leads sometimes wear out or break. When this happens, they must be removed.

illustration of heart showing leads from generator

To make lead removal as safe as possible, the Heart Rhythm Society has published new guidelines for the procedure, as follows:

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »