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Pacemaker and ICD Lead Extraction

Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) deliver energy to the heart through thin, flexible wires called leads. When these leads are not working properly – because of infection, damage, or surrounding scar tissue – they need to be removed.

Leads that have been in place for many years can become very attached to the heart and blood vessel walls, making them difficult to remove. UC San Diego surgeons are skilled at using a minimally invasive procedure called laser lead extraction to cut through scar tissue surrounding the lead and allow it to be easily removed.

Leader in Laser Lead Extractions

Only a small number of medical centers offer this complex surgery. UC San Diego does more each year than any other facility in the region, and by 2014, we had performed more than 250. We also perform this surgery in a “hybrid” operating room, with both state-of-the-art imaging equipment and everything necessary for open heart surgery. Having two physicians — a cardiac electrophysiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon — perform the surgery together enhances patients’ safety enormously.

In addition, our physicians have published and presented papers in lead management at national and international conferences, and often train other electrophysiologists in when and how to perform lead extractions.

Video: Hear from a lead extraction patient and her doctors

In November 2012, our facility performed its 100th lead extraction, with a 100% success rate. (We've since performed more than 250.) JenyLyn Carpio, the 100th patient, was 22 years old when she experienced a total heart blockage and was diagnosed with a genetic heart disorder that required a defibrillator and pacemaker. She discusses her treatment, and Dr. Ulrika Birgersdotter-Green and Victor Pretorius give more information on lead extractions.

Laser Lead Extraction

Hundreds of Lead Extractions, Excellent Success Rate

In 2012, our physicians performed their 100th lead extraction surgery. (Read the news release) We've since performed more than 250, with excellent success rates.

Related Specialists

Research-Based Medicine

Our physicians are actively involved in clinical research that helps make lead extractions safer and more effective. View lead extraction papers published by UC San Diego faculty.


Lead Management Meeting

Above, Dr. Victor Pretorius presents at a lead management meeting hosted by Dr. Pretorius, Dr. Birgersdotter-Green, and UC San Diego in 2014. Physicians from across North America attended to learn lead management indications and techniques.

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