As we become more environmentally conscious, we do our best to reuse the resources we have. Recently, this has even begun to include medical implant devices such as pacemakers. Recycling pacemakers are good for the earth, and it’s also directly beneficial for us. Many people around the world who need pacemakers but can’t afford new device; however, recycling these products provides refurbished ones. Pacemaker recycling services are not only possible, but it is also life-saving!
Is It Safe to Recycle a Pacemaker?
A 2017 study published in the World Journal of Cardiology found that recycled pacemakers are indeed safe and effective to use. The two most significant concerns for the reuse of any medical device are infection and malfunction. However, multiple studies have shown the risk of disease or death from a recycled device is no different from the implantation of a new pacemaker. Although the risk of the malfunction was higher in recycled pacemakers, the study did not observe any cases in which the failure led to death.
How Is a Pacemaker Recycled?
Pacemakers do not last indefinitely; they need to be changed out every five to ten years. At this time, the actual pacemaker is still functional, but the battery is dead. Currently, it is not possible to change or recharge the battery while the patient is using the device, so patients must receive new pacemakers.
Additionally, when a patient passes away, the pacemaker can be retrieved by a mortician. A recent survey of funeral directors in Michigan and Illinois revealed that nearly one in five of the deceased have some implanted heart device. Without available pacemaker recycling services, those devices would either need to be buried with the dead or thrown away. Another survey found that 87% of patients would be willing to donate old pacemakers to charity.
To be recycled, a pacemaker must be removed, cleaned, and sterilized by a specially trained mortician. After receiving inspection and a new battery, the pacemaker can then be shipped overseas for reuse. The University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center is currently engaged in a study called Project My Heart Your Heart that is establishing the feasibility of reusing pacemakers in developing countries.
Where Are Recycled Pacemakers Used?
Current FDA regulations prevent the reuse of pacemakers within the United States due to the difficulties involved in thoroughly sterilizing the devices. However, many other countries such as India and Mexico accept recycled pacemakers. Patients in those countries might never have had access to these important devices if not for donations from American patients, doctors, and funeral directors.
In 2012 alone, 17.5 million people around the world died of cardiovascular disease, and 75% of these deaths occurred in low-income countries where most people don’t have access to implanted medical devices such as pacemakers. However, pacemaker recycling services and willing donors can work together to begin to reduce those numbers.