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Scientists at Duke University found that patients whose bloodstream was infected with bacteria from pneumonia skin infections ulcers or other sources had about a 50 percent chance the infection would later spread to their implanted cardiac device Damage to a pacemaker a tool that maintains a regular heartbeat or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator ICD which monitors and sends electric shocks to correct abnormal heart rhythms can be deadly if not treated soon after they become infected The bacteria which continue to multiply after they latch onto the device can eventually overwhelm the body causing it to go into shock and the person to die The major finding is that if someone has this type of infection you should be worried or concerned that the device is infected as well Dr Anna Lisa Chamis of Duke University Chamis and her colleagues examined 33 individuals with pacemakers or ICDs who had developed an infection The bacteria had spread to the device in 15 of those individuals A major finding in the study showed that replacing the pacemaker or ICD is more effective in reducing the chance of death for the patient then antibiotic treatment The device was removed in 12 of the 33 patients studied while the remaining 21 received antibiotic therapy The data showed two people who had the device removed died compared to 10 who were administered the therapy The findings were published in Circulation an American Heart Association journal Pacemaker and ICD surgeries are common procedures in the United States According to the American Heart Association 170000 pacemakers and 26000 ICDs were implanted in 1998 the most recent year for which data are available People have long thought you could treat these infections with antibiotics but it is difficult to do that and infection necessitates removal of the cardiac device
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