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Medtronic Questioned on Sprint Fidelis Lead Fracture Rates

Feb 4, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

How often does Medtronic Inc.'s  recalled Sprint Fidelis defibrillator lead  fracture?  According to some major hospitals, more often than what Medtronic has stated.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Medtronic says its own research shows the Sprint Fidelis leads survive for three years at least 95.4% of the time, for a failure rate of 4.6%. But a report from the University of Rochester published in the January issue of the American Journal of Cardiology said the three-year survival rate of 426 Medtronic leads inserted in patients there was 90.8%, meaning 9.2% failed. A report from the Mayo Clinic published last February in the journal HeartRhythm said the estimated rate of failure among 848 leads implanted there after three years of use was 12.1%.

Another HeartRhythm study published in October 2008 by the University of Ottawa found the risk of a Sprint Fidelis facture “increased significantly with time.” In November, a separate Mayo Clinic study showed the failure rate for Sprint Fidelis leads after two years was 20.4% in patients younger than 50, while the rate in older patients was only 3.5%.

A lead is a wire that connects an implantable defibrillator to the heart. If a lead breaks, the defibrillator can emit a massive and painful shock. And in the worse case scenario, the fractured lead can prevent a defibrillator from sending a necessary, lifesaving shock to the heart.

Medtronic Inc.’s Sprint Fidelis lead was removed from the market in October 2007, following reports of 5 deaths due to lead fractures. In March 2009, we reported that Medtronic sent a letter to doctors informing them that the faulty wires were a “possible or likely contributing factor” in as many as 13 deaths. Four of the deaths occurred when doctors tried to remove defective Sprint Fidelis leads from patients. Now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that according to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) database, 12 additional deaths allegedly linked to the Sprint Fidelis have been reported to the agency since last March.

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