Thursday, June 9, 2011

That's a hell of a place to have a battery problem!

Last night I posted a tongue-in-cheek look at a proposal to use lithium-ion batteries in submarines. An anonymous commenter provided a link to another situation where battery problems are really, really not wanted: an internally-worn cardiac pacemaker.

There are several articles in a series about the incident. One provides this summary:

The official ESC journal Europace publishe[d] an online case report by Dr. Martin Hudec about the extremely rare and spectacular failure of a recently implanted Biotronik 340 VR-T ICD in a 46-year-old man. The battery of the device apparently overheated, causing the device to malfunction and leading to severe internal burning.

Another reports:

  • The episode occurred on May 12, 2010 in the Slovak Republic and was reported to the FDA on May 19. An update with the company’s analysis of the episode was submitted to the FDA on June 7, 2010.
  • The company believes this to be a “singular event” that won’t results in a recall and that the company will not issue a “Dear Doctor” letter .
  • This is the first time an event like this has occurred in a Biotronik device, but “sudden discharges of battery energy, commonly referred to as “hot pocket” have previously (but rarely) been reported in the CRM industry,” the memo states.

The manufacturer's case report may be read here (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format). In this case, the battery didn't actually explode, but it overheated badly enough to seriously warp the pacemaker (on the left in the picture below). It also caused a massive burn to the patient's chest, from the inside (on the right in the picture below, showing the left upper chest area - the discolored burn scar is next to the left armpit).

Amazingly, the patient survived - although I'm not sure whether he's let the doctors implant a replacement device! After that experience, I'd be telling them in words of approximately one syllable - repeated frequently and very loudly - to find something better!


No comments: