Defibrillators are electrical devices used to treat heart conditions like arrhythmia, which is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. A defibrillator’s job is to deliver an electric shock to the heart, effectively jolting it back to its normal rhythm.
When we hear the word “defibrillator,” many of us think about the big, portable ones they use in ambulances or hospitals – the ones that send strong electrical currents from a large battery to paddles placed on the patient’s chest. While those are still in use, medical and technological advancements have led to small, implantable defibrillators (also called pacemakers) with a battery and wires (called “leads”) that attach directly to the heart, sending an electrical current to the heart muscle when necessary.
It is these implantable defibrillators that have caused so many problems for heart patients.
The issue with defibrillator leads
Defibrillator leads are a crucial component of any pacemaker. When these thin wires are defective or wear out, they can deliver unnecessary shocks to the heart – even when the heart is working and performing normally. Or, conversely, they can fail to deliver a life-saving shock to restore a normal heart rhythm.
Defective defibrillator leads can cause injuries and complications, including electric shocks, heart palpitations, dizziness, surgical site infections, or wrongful death. Patients who have experienced defective defibrillator injuries may be eligible for compensation for expenses like hospital and medical bills, future medical bills, corrective surgery, lost and future wages, and pain and suffering.
Which companies have recalled defibrillators?
The problems with defective defibrillators have been known for close to 15 years. Back in 2005, Guidant Corporation issued a defibrillator recall for its cardiac defibrillators implanted in more than 50,000 patients around the world due to potentially fatal malfunctions of the devices. The recall occurred after two deaths were reported involving the defibrillator unit. Wiring errors in the Guidant defibrillators were causing a short circuit, overloading the wiring, and making the unit unworkable. Later, it came to light that Guidant was aware of the issue but let the devices go to market anyway.
Guidant is not the only defibrillator manufacturer that has recalled dangerous medical devices. Some St. Jude devices have also been recalled. Between 2014 and 2015, St. Jude issued recalls for devices with Optisure Dual Coil Defibrillation Leads, claiming “a manufacturing error… may have caused damage to the insulation layer of one of the shock coils. Depending on device programming and the depth of the cut, this could result in the inability of the defibrillator to deliver electrical therapy to the patient.” Per the announcement, patients were at risk of serious injury or even death.
Medtronic, another leading implant manufacturer, has also recalled devices. The company created an implant with thinner, finer defibrillator leads for increased patient comfort and lower production costs. However, these leads turned out to be less reliable and more fragile over time. Between 2013 and 2017, Medtronic recalled some of these models for potentially fatal malfunctions.
Companies and manufacturers should never put profits above patient safety – and when they do, they must be held accountable for their actions. When your health is put at risk, you have the right to ask for damages, and we can help protect your rights.
Talk to the defective medical device attorneys at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC if you were injured by a defective defibrillator. Our experienced legal team is ready to consult with you today. Call us at 803-327-7800 or complete our contact form.