Current guidelines recommend considering deactivation of cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) in patients nearing death. We evaluated the implementation of this recommendation in unselected deceased individuals with CIEDs.
Over a 7-month period in 2016, all deceased persons taken to the Rostock crematorium were prospectively screened for CIEDs and these were interrogated in situ. Pacing rate, pacing mode, and lead output were documented as well as patient data including location and time of death. In implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), tachycardia therapy adjustment and occurrence of shocks 24 h prior to death were also recorded.
We examined 2297 subjects, of whom 154 (6.7%) had CIEDs. Of these subjects, 125 (100%) pacemakers (PMs) and 27 (96.4%) ICDs were eligible for analysis. Death in persons with ICDs occurred most frequently in hospital (55.6%), while this was less frequently the case for individuals with PMs (43.2%). Furthermore, 33.3% of subjects with ICDs and 18.5% with PMs died in palliative care units (PCU). Shock therapies were switched off in three (60%) individuals with ICDs who died in the PCU, whereas antibradycardia therapy was not withdrawn in any PM patient in the PCU. Therapy withdrawal occurred in two patients with PMs (1.3%) who died in hospital. Patients with PMs had high ventricular pacing rates at the last interrogation (69 ± 36.0%) and often suffered atrioventricular block (39.2%).
Many CIED patients died in hospital; nonetheless, in practice, CIED deactivation near death is rarely performed and might be less feasible in subjects with PMs. However, there is still a need to consider deactivation, especially in individuals with ICDs, as one fourth of them received at least one shock within 24 h prior to death.