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Infection scare for pacemaker patients

india Updated: Mar 21, 2009 01:15 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla
Jaya Shroff Bhalla
Hindustan Times

Seven of 21 patients who got a pacemaker implanted at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in August and September last year had to re-do the implantation because of hospital infection. Two of the seven patients had to get the pacemaker implanted thrice after the infection did not cease.

The fate of the other 14 patients is not known because they did not go to the hospital for a follow-up.

“It is an unusually high number of re-do implantations,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan, head of cardiology, RML Hospital. “We’ve stepped up measures to disinfect the cath-lab. What’s most worrying is that even after several rounds of culture examination, we haven’t been able to identify the cause of infection.”

Patients have to pay Rs 22,000 for the pacemaker’s lead — a thin flexible wire that travels through a vein and delivers energy to a heart muscle from the device — for each implantation. “The same pacemaker is used in re-do implantations but the lead has to be changed,” said Dr Ashok Seth, chairman, cardiac sciences, Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre.

Bahadurgarh-resident Santara Devi, 70, was one of the two patients who got a pacemaker implanted three times. “It’s expensive to get operated three times. If there’s a problem, why should a poor patient pay?” said Kishan Sharma, Santara Devi’s son.

Patients are worried that they do not have details about the pacemaker implanted. “I’m sure the hospital is getting big cuts from the manufacturers and is therefore not giving details to us,” said Abhirup Kumar, whose grandfather had to do undergo the implantation twice.

The hospital dismissed the allegations. “After patients deposit a cheque, not only do they get a receipt but also the box of equipment used,” says Dr Vardhan. “In about a fortnight, the company sends the patient a life-long warranty card.”

Kumar and two other patients insisted they did not get a warranty card. “We want more transparency but no one is ready to listen,” said Kumar. None of the seven patients, however, have complained to the hospital.