Software Identifies Potential Defibrillator Lead Fractures

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced approval of a software update from Medtronic that will help detect fractures of the company's Sprint Fidelis cardiac defibrillator lead. The new software package will alert both patients and physicians of a potential lead fracture. This will enable early intervention and lower the risk of serious complications.

“This new software modification will provide Sprint Fidelis patients with the reassurance that their defibrillator is being monitored around the clock,” said Daniel Schultz, M.D., director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA. “While the software doesn't fix the fracture itself, it may help identify the fracture earlier, allowing patients to see their physicians sooner.”


Implantable defibrillators are used to treat patients at risk of experiencing life-threatening heart rhythm abnormalities. Should an abnormality occur, the defibrillator delivers a pulse of energy through a lead, a thin electronic wire, shocking the heart back into normal rhythm.

The Sprint Fidelis lead, the subject of an October 2007 Medtronic recall, was prone to fracture in a small number of patients, potentially causing the lead to deliver unnecessary shocks or not operate at all. Most of the patients with the Sprint Fidelis lead still have the device implanted because of the surgical risk associated with removal, and are being monitored by their health care providers for potential fracture.

Medtronic's new software feature, called the Lead Integrity Alert, issues an audible alert once it detects signals that could indicate that the lead has fractured, and then repeats the alert every four hours until a physician can reset the defibrillator. In addition to an audible alert, the new software also modifies the device settings so the defibrillator has more time to consider whether a lead fracture or an abnormal heart rhythm has occurred, a change intended to reduce the number of inappropriate defibrillator shocks. The physician can download the Lead Integrity Alert feature onto Medtronic implantable cardioverter defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillators.

Medtronic has agreed to actively monitor the performance of the new software feature in actual use, which will allow both the company and FDA to ensure that the device is protecting patients as intended.


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