Implant has patients in limbo

MORRISTOWN, N.J. — For one heart patient, there will be no more agonizing over whether the implanted device meant to save his life might kill him instead.

On Tuesday, two months after Medtronic warned doctors and nearly a quarter-million patients that a wire, or lead, connecting their electronic defibrillators to their hearts might break, the 48-year-old patient had the lead and defibrillator removed and replaced. It required a painstaking 90-minute surgical procedure.

But thousands of other patients with failing hearts remain trapped in doubt. Should they have the potentially faulty wire, or lead, removed — or leave it in place and hope it does not fail?

And if they do have it extracted, how will they pay for it? Medtronic is limiting its contribution to only a replacement lead and $800 toward each procedure, which can cost $12,500 or more.

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