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Epicardial pacing in New Zealand (1977-2002)
Searby, Karen Ann
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Reviews of clinical practice for paediatric pacemaker implantation and follow-up are necessary to provide an evidence-base for future policy and practice in this field. Epicardial pacing data available through Green Lane Hospital, New Zealand's (NZ) primary referral centre for paediatric cardiac surgery and pacemaker implantation, was reviewed with the following aims: Assessment of pacemaker lead performance over time in relation to the type of epicardial lead implanted - steroid-eluting (SE) and non steroid-eluting (NSE). Determination of the survival rate of epicardial leads. Identifying factors predicting or associated with lead failure.A database of pacing and sensing thresholds and lead impedance data at implant, 2, 6 and 18 weeks and 6 monthly intervals thereafter, was compiled and the prevalence and timing of complications in relation to lead type, location and implant route determined. In total 192 leads (155 SE, 37 NSE) were implanted in 96 patients (52 male) aged 3 days to 71 years (y) (median 1.7y), 74 patients were < 17 years of age at implant. Congenital heart defects were present in 82% of patients. Follow-up (f/u) was possible for 180 leads. Mean f/u duration for the 150 SE leads was 3.1y (2 weeks - 8.8y) and for the 30 NSE leads was 4.5y (2 weeks - 27y).SE and NSE pacing thresholds were similar at implant. NSE pacing thresholds peaked at 6 weeks post implant and remained significantly higher than SE leads throughout f/u in surviving leads, although the difference was small at 2 and 4 y. SE and NSE leads had similar ventricular sensing thresholds and lead impedances throughout the study period.Survival at 5 years for all leads was 61% (66% for SE leads and 41% for NSE leads). Primary causes of failure in the leads receiving f/u were exit block and lead fracture. The occurrence of exit block was significantly higher (p<0.0001) in NSE leads (57%) compared to SE leads (5%). Lead fracture occurred in 15% of leads with the highest fracture rate at 2-3 y post implant. Patient age and weight at implant, gender, previous cardiac surgery, lead polarity, indication for pacing and implant route were not predictors of lead failure. NSE leads were 6 times more likely to fail compared to SE leads (p <0.0001).The main study findings were: SE leads maintain lower pacing thresholds and a reduced incidence of exit block compared to NSE leads. It is therefore recommended that SE leads be developed which can penetrate fibrosed, scarred or fatty epicardial surfaces. Where SE lead use is contraindicated, alternative surgical techniques for SE lead placement should be attempted rather than implanting NSE leads. Lead fracture is a significant complication of epicardial pacing in paediatric patients. Using stronger bipolar leads implanted by the subxiphoid route may reduce the risk of fracture. Medium term survival (5 y) of SE epicardial leads is acceptable and therefore the continued use of these leads is recommended, particularly in young patients, allowing their veins to be saved for transvenous leads later in their life.