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Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) and Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Defibrillators (CRT-Ds) by St. Jude Medical: FDA Safety Communication - Batteries May Fail Earlier Than Expected

UPDATED 10/19/2017. On August 28, 2017, St. Jude Medical notified physicians of the availability of Battery Performance Alert (BPA), a new battery performance management tool that detects and notifies physicians of abnormal battery performance that may lead to premature battery depletion in Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators.

If a BPA is triggered for a patient’s device, the patient’s physician will be notified through the device programmer and/or the Merlin@home monitoring system. St. Jude Medical recommends immediate device explant and replacement.

If a BPA is not triggered, St. Jude Medical recommends that physicians follow patient management recommendations included in their 2016 Premature Battery Depletion Advisory.

UPDATED 10/24/2016. Updated as Class I Recall. Recall noticed added to website.

[Posted 10/11/2016]

AUDIENCE: Risk Manager, Cardiology

ISSUE: FDA and St. Jude Medical are alerting patients, patient-caregivers, and physicians to respond immediately to Elective Replacement Indicator (ERI) alerts. Due to problems with these batteries, patients do not have the normal 3-month lead time for device replacement. Some batteries have run out within 24 hours of the patient receiving an ERI alert. St. Jude Medical has initiated a recall and correction of the affected devices. See the FDA Safety Communication for a listing of affected devices and data summary.

St. Jude Medical has reported that in some cases, full battery drainage can occur within a day to a few weeks after the patient receives an ERI alert. If the battery runs out, the ICD or CRT-D will be unable to deliver life-saving pacing or shocks, which could lead to patient death. The patients most at risk are those with a high likelihood of requiring life-saving shocks and those who are pacemaker dependent.

Battery depletion may not always be reported to the manufacturer, therefore the true number of devices with premature battery depletion due to lithium clusters is not known. At this time, 349,852 affected devices remain actively implanted worldwide.

The FDA will continue to monitor affected St. Jude Medical ICD and CRT-D devices for any adverse events related to premature battery depletion or cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and the agency will keep the public informed as new information becomes available.

BACKGROUND: Implanted defibrillators (ICDs and CRT-Ds) are powered by lithium-based batteries. Deposits of lithium, known as “lithium clusters,” can form within the battery and create abnormal electrical connections leading to rapid battery failure.

RECOMMENDATIONS: See the FDA Safety Communication for a complete listing of recommendations for healthcare providers and patients. For healthcare professionals:

  • Do not implant unused affected devices. Premature battery depletion due to lithium clusters has only been observed in devices manufactured prior to May 2015. At this time, there is no information indicating that this issue affects devices manufactured after this date.
  • Communicate with all patients who have an affected device that their device has a battery that may run out earlier than expected. Consider giving patients the Dear Patient letter provided by St. Jude Medical.
  • Continue to conduct follow-up on patients with affected devices using in-office visits in addition to remote monitoring once they have been notified of the battery issue. Increased in-office surveillance is not necessary for patients who are also followed with remote monitoring.
  • Immediately replace the device at the time of an ERI alert. Currently, there is not a factor, method, or test to identify when devices with this form of premature battery depletion are approaching ERI, or to accurately predict remaining battery life once ERI appears.
  • Pacemaker-dependent patients with a device that has reached ERI should be treated as a medical emergency.
  • Health care providers should consider whether elective device replacement is warranted for their pacemaker dependent patients. Ultimately, health care providers should individualize the care of their patients based on the patients’ medical history, comorbidities and condition.
  • Most patients will not require prophylactic device replacement prior to ERI, as the rate of complications following replacement surgery are higher than those associated with premature battery depletion. However, the FDA and St. Jude Medical recognize the need to weigh individual clinical considerations. If the decision is made to replace an affected device based on individual patient circumstances, St. Jude Medical has announced they will provide a replacement device at no cost.
  • Enroll patients in Merlin@Home, St. Jude Medical’s home monitoring system for these devices, especially those who have difficulty recognizing their device’s ERI alerts. For patients already enrolled in Merlin@Home, explain the importance of ongoing home monitoring. Utilize the “Direct Alerts” feature to provide you with an alert notification when a patient’s device has reached ERI. Please see additional information about the Merlin@Home Monitoring System below. If a home monitor is ordered for a patient with an affected device, St. Jude Medical will cover the cost of the home monitor.
  • Ensure that the ERI battery alert is ON for all patients. Review the most recent “Programmed Parameters” printout.

Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

  • Complete and submit the report Online:
  • Download form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178

[10/19/2017 - Recall Notice - FDA]

[10/24/2016 - Recall Notice - FDA]

[10/11/2016 - Safety Communication - FDA]

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