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Study: Heart device defect has caused 22 deaths

A recent study has determined that defective wires in defibrillators have contributed to the death of 22 patients. Doctors have been warned about the faulty products, but an estimated 79,000 patients in the United States have the wires implanted. While it is considered dangerous to remove the wires, Florida patients with defibrillators may want to be aware of the risks they pose.

The manufacturer of the wires is St. Jude Medical. The reported deaths were associated with two models of the company's products: Riata and Riata ST. They no longer make the wires, also called leads, and have warned physicians about the problems that may come up after the defibrillator is implanted.

Defibrillators are implanted underneath a person's collarbone. When a person's heartbeat becomes erratic or chaotic, the device sends an electrical current to the heart, which shocks it and restores a normal heartbeat. The issue here is that the leads connecting to the heart are malfunctioning. Specifically, the wires can short circuit and fail to deliver life-saving shocks to the heart which can result in a fatality.

Other problems have been detected in the medical devices, which may be contributing to injuries and fatalities as well. In some cases, the wires rub against the device. In other cases, the wires were sticking out of their protective casing.

The fact that the dangerous and defective product is still implanted in thousands of patients is troubling. More troubling, perhaps, is that removing the device could prove to be dangerous as well. According to this study, eight people have died while having the wires removed.

Having a medical device implanted into a body can be very frightening. It is up to the manufacturers and doctors to ensure that the products are safe and properly implanted. In cases when a medical device fails or is defective, serious and fatal injuries may be sustained by patients. If this happens, a patient or a patient's family has the right to seek financial compensation from the negligent party.

Source: The New York Times, "Bad Wire in Heart Device Led to 22 Deaths, Study Says," Katie Thomas, March 27, 2012

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