COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers

Lead Extractions

Pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) are used to provide electrical impulses to the heart. This is done through two or three thin wires, or leads, in the veins that connect the heart to the device.

There are approximately three million Americans with pacemakers or ICDs in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. At some point, about 1 to 2 percent will have leads that stop working and require removal. Lead extraction may be necessary for a handful of reasons:

  • Infection - This is the most common reason for extraction. When this occurs, the leads and implanted device must be completely removed.

  • Damage - If the leads are damaged, they have to be removed and replaced.

  • Exit block - When damaged leads are not removed or scar tissue is created at the end of the lead, blockage can occur and the wires have to be removed.

What to Expect

The procedure is minimally invasive and usually requires an overnight stay in the hospital to ensure the device is working properly and that your heart rhythm remains normal. The procedure goes as follows:

  • It is performed through an incision in either the chest or groin. Usually this is done over the previous incision or through a mini-thorectomy (a small incision in the chest between two ribs).
  • A tube goes in the vein and a laser or extraction device removes scar tissue from the lead.
  • The leads are removed and your doctor may implant new ones at this time.

Trusted Experts

The professional, caring staff at REX Cardiac Surgical Specialists is here to help ease you safely through your mitral valve repair surgery. People who choose UNC REX are consistently satisfied with the high-quality care we provide every patient.

When undergoing heart surgery, you want to know that your specialists are not only knowledgeable, but are well versed in the most up-to-date techniques. Rex's cardiac surgeons have 25 years of experience each and are constantly working on the latest changes and innovations in the heart care field.

At UNC REX, you can trust that you will be taken care of by an entire team of specialists including cardiologists as well as vascular and thoracic surgeons. UNC REX Healthcare provides the perfect combination of compassion, expertise and exceptional clinical outcomes.

Patient Resources

For more information on lead extraction, visit the web site of the American Heart Association.

Related Locations