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The treatment of infected or exposed cardiac pacing and defibrillator devices is controversial. The conservative and widely accepted management calls for removal of the device and leads with immediate or delayed replacement of new components in a new site. Lead extraction carries a 2% major complication risk. In this article, we describe our experience with device salvage techniques and review the current literature.
This is a retrospective case series of consecutive patients with infected, exposed, or at-risk implanted cardiac devices that were treated with aggressive surgical debridement, local pocket irrigation, and revision. A comprehensive review of the literature regarding device infection management was performed.
Ten patients with threatened devices were identified. Surgical revision with the aim to salvage the device was successful in 8 (80%) of 10 cases. Seventeen retrospective publications were reviewed. All indicate success with attempted salvage surgery, but heterogeneity of data limits formal meta-analysis and prevents management recommendations.
Cardiac pacing and defibrillator devices with low-grade infection or threatened exposure may be salvaged without explantation. Despite the lack of clear management guidelines or data, plastic surgeons may be asked to assist in the management of threatened cardiac devices. Further prospective trials are required to evaluate the safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of attempted implant salvage.

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