Medicine: More Heartache: The trouble with pacemakers

The trouble with pacemakers

Surgeons in the U.S. implant about 100,000 new pacemakers each year, at an average cost of $12,000. Last week Cardiologist Allan Greenspan of Philadelphia's Albert Einstein Medical Center charged that the implantations are often useless. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, he concluded that more than half the pacemaker operations he studied were either unnecessary or of questionable need. Concluded Greenspan: "Not all physicians who prescribe pacemakers know as much about the subject as they should."

First developed three decades ago, the small battery-operated devices transmit electrical impulses that correct both irregular and slow heartbeats. However,...

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