In pacemaker or defibrillator lead extraction, your UPMC electrophysiologist removes the leads — the wires that carry electrical current from your implantable device to your heart.
Surgeons may use an implantable device — either a cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker — to treat heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).
Although they perform different functions, both devices consist of a pulse generator — a small metal box that contains a battery and electronic circuits.
One end of the wire leads connects to the pulse generator — typically run through a vein to the right side of your heart — and delivers a small amount of electric current when needed. The electricity causes your heart to contract, or beat.
To ensure the leads stay in the right place in your heart, the surgeon performing the implantation attaches them to your heart using very small screws or tines. In response — as part of the healing process — scar tissue forms on the leads and at the tip where it connects to your heart.
Over the years, the leads can become strongly attached to the walls of your veins and heart. This attachment can make lead extraction difficult.
Although they are meant to remain in your body permanently, occasionally leads need to be removed.
Reasons for lead extraction include:
Because the leads often become attached to your vein walls and heart, lead extraction carries risks and requires more skill than it does to implant them. Removing the attached leads can damage the lead, veins, or heart.
At UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, our defibrillator and pacemaker lead extraction teams — all of whom have extensive experience with this demanding procedure — include:
Lead extraction procedures are minimally invasive, however they carry risks. Complications could arise that require open surgery.
Our expertise in lead extraction is unique in western Pennsylvania because of:
Lead extraction takes from one to six hours to complete.
You will receive medication to make you sleep during the procedure.
Once asleep, your UPMC electrophysiologist:
When the sheath stops advancing, the electrophysiologist:
Because lead extraction typically involves only a small incision, you may be able to go home the day after the procedure.
If you have an infection, you may need to remain in the hospital or at a skilled nursing facility until the infection is gone.
To make an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at:
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Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. We'll be happy to answer your questions or schedule an appointment.