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More than 250,000 whose hearts have an implanted defibrillator, a device that will shock the heart back to its normal rhythm if there’s cardiac arrest. But doctors say about a year ago the devices began to malfunction.

“Several months ago we had a patient come to us who experienced multiple shocks,” a Dr. Zho said.

Those shocks should happen only when a patient’s heart rhythm is off. Instead, they were happening even when the heartbeat was normal, which patients say feels like being kicked in the chest.

“These are shocks from the defibrillator that are being delivered for no good reason,” said Dr. Robert Hauser, a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute.

Several local doctors reported the problem to the device maker, Fridley based Medtronic, which traced the problem to a lead wire that connects the defibrillator to the heart.

Monday it’s telling patients who have the model called Sprint-Fidelis lead not to have it removed, but to be aware of the problem with the lead wire.

“You don’t want to have your lead replaced if it’s still functioning normally,” Hauser said. “But you do want to have it checked on a regular basis.”

Medtronic is voluntarily suspending the device, but it’s important to note that death rates are very low.

A patient actually faces a higher risk of death by having surgery to remove the device than from leaving a properly functioning device in place.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Drugs, Medical Devices and Implants.

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