Indian patients thrived with used ICDs, study concludes

Surgeons safely implanted used ICDs in 75 patients in India, according to a new study, the second major one this fall to tout the benefit of reusing medical device implants. Reuters reports on the finding in detail, which highlights the potential of reusing implantable cardioverter defibrillators in emerging markets where patients can't easily afford the devices.

This is also the first study of its kind to explore reusing ICDs, according to the article.

The work by lead researcher Dr. Behzad Pavri of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia follows a landmark University of Pennsylvania study released in September that concluded pacemakers could be harvested from autopsies and reused as a way to assist heart patients in the developing world who lacked the means to pay for a new implant. The idea, of course, is that implant such as pacemakers and ICDs can be reused on a wider scale.

For this latest study, which is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers evaluated 75 poor patients in India who had ICD implants that were taken from cadavers in the U.S. and donated. The scientists found that the patients did just fine over the next two years, with no reports of infections or device malfunctions.

Still, as Reuters and the researchers themselves note, the study wasn't perfect. The hope is to launch a larger prospective study which would involve recruiting patients specifically for the trial and then following them over a longer period. But the scientists have a major obstacle ahead in the U.S.--the FDA doesn't allow ICDs and pacemakers to be reused and would have to sign off on such a study.

The movement to reuse ICDs and pacemakers also faces industry resistance, Reuters reminds us, and they cite safety concerns as a reason. Instead, companies such as Medtronic ($MDT) and St. Jude Medical ($STJ) donate new devices to global charities.

- here's the Reuters story
- read the study abstract