What to Know
- Doctors in Plano are embedding an antibiotic-infused mesh sleeve that dissolves on its own in patients with pacemakers or defibrillators.
- The sleeve dissolves in eight days, slowly releasing antibiotics to stop potential infections before they start.
- A study revealed that the sleeve reduced the risk of major device-related infection by 40% within a year, with no increase in complications.
Every year in the United States, more than 300,000 people get a pacemaker or defibrillator to help their heart do its job.
They're life saving devices, but the surgery can come with complications. The most common one is infection, according to doctors, who said between 1% and 1.5% of patients suffer an infection within 90 days of their surgery.
Doctors in Plano have a new way to ward off infection and it's in the form of a mesh pocket.
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Surgeons place the pacemaker or defibrillator in a mesh sleeve embedded with antibiotics.
As the mesh sleeve slowly dissolves over eight days, the antibiotics are released, preventing infection.
Traditionally, patients who suffered infection required removal of their device, rounds of antibiotics and a subsequent surgery to implant the device on the other side of their bodies.
A study demonstrated that the mesh sleeve reduced the risk of major device-related infection by 40% within one year, with no increase in complications.
Dr. Hafiza Khan, at Baylor Scott & White Heart Hospital in Plano, calls it a game changer.
"When patients have complications, it's devastating for the patient and it's devastating for the doctor," Khan said. "To have peace of mind that I have done everything within my ability to keep my patients safe, lets me sleep well at night."
The sleeve is reserved for high-risk patients, such as diabetics, cancer survivors or people with weak immune systems.
Patients who have had multiple devices are also good candidates -- they're at a higher risk with each surgery.
Mallory Leblanc, 35, of Dallas was one such patient.
She's on her third pacemaker, the result of a congenital heart condition that gave her an extra electrical circuit in her heart.
She'll need a new pacemaker every 10 to 15 years, and agreed to participate in the study to lower her risk of infection and help others in the process. She suffered no complications.
"Sometimes, test and medical studies can be scary, but they're safe and it's nice that we can be a part of research that helps people," Leblanc said.