Unrecognized venous injuries after cardiac implantable electronic device transvenous lead extraction

Published:November 12, 2017DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrthm.2017.11.008


      The major complication rate of transvenous lead extraction (TLE) is estimated to be 1%–2%. Laceration of the central veins can be fatal.


      To define the incidence and extent of venous injuries on a microscopic level after TLE and compare these data with those of clinically documented events of venous laceration.


      We studied all patients who underwent TLE at our tertiary center within 30 months via a variety of techniques. Extracted leads and tissue around them were fixed in formalin. Pathologic examination was standardized to examine the leads identifying the areas covered by tissue cuffs along the length of the lead. The cuffs were removed and sectioned transversely to their longitudinal axis. Microscopic examination was performed using hematoxylin and eosin stains and Movat stains to identify the presence of vein tissue.


      In all, 861 leads (585 pacemaker and 272 defibrillator leads) were extracted from 461 patients (median age 63 years, standard deviation 15 years), with an average of 1.9 leads per patient and a median lead age of 2546 days. On microscopic review, 80 leads (9.3%) in 72 of 461 patients (15.6%) showed segments of vein, most of which were transmural (venous tissue including adventitia). Despite this finding, only 5 catastrophic complications (1.1%) occurred that required emergent surgical intervention. Risk factors for venous injury included implantable cardioverter defibrillator lead, age of lead, and the use of laser sheath.


      Microscopic venous injuries during lead extraction are common but often not recognized clinically.

      Graphical abstract


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