Lead Extraction

Aurora Health Care surgeons have completed more lead extractions than anyone in Wisconsin – with excellent results.


What Is Lead Extraction?

Millions of people worldwide have a pacemaker or an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) device that delivers energy to the heart through wires called leads. Sometimes, these leads need to be removed and replaced. This process is called lead extraction.

Our cardiovascular surgeons have completed more lead extractions than any other group in Wisconsin. Each year, we safely replace the leads for more than 100 pacemakers and defibrillators. We help people return to their family, work and other daily activities.

World-Class Care

Advanced Lead Extraction Techniques & Care

Our cardiovascular team uses the most advanced techniques to perform lead extraction. When you need the procedure, our surgeons care for you in an advanced surgical suite, equipped with the latest tools and technology.

Your lead extraction procedure at Aurora Health Care will include:

  • Experienced surgeons: We have developed new techniques for removing even the most complex leads. For more than 20 years, we have treated more than 900 people and removed more than 1,500 leads with excellent results. Meet our cardiovascular and thoracic team.
  • Minimally invasive techniques: Our surgeons have devised innovative techniques to perform delicate lead extractions. We’ve presented our results in medical publications and at conferences. Because of our reputation as extraction leaders, we are among the first to be invited to try the newest techniques and devices. We even teach other surgeons how to perform lead extraction procedures.
  • Comprehensive surgical center: Doctors throughout Wisconsin and Illinois refer people to us for complex lead extraction. Our hybrid surgical rooms are the only ones of their kind in Wisconsin, and among the few in the Midwest. Learn more about our cardiovascular surgery program.
  • Sophisticated tools: Our surgeons have experience with the full range of surgical tools to extract leads, including precise lasers and many kinds of catheters (specialized, thin tubes).

We can perform just about any lead extraction procedure at Aurora Health Care. Learn more about the specialty heart care we provide through our Cardiac Electrophysiology department.

Why Lead Extraction

Why Lead Extraction Is Necessary

Pacemaker and defibrillator technology has improved over the years. These advancements mean many people who rely on such devices live a long time, which is great news.

It also means that more people need to replace devices as they wear out. Devices often need to be replaced after 6 to 10 years.

Over time, the leads that connect to a pacemaker or defibrillator can stop working the way they should. Occasionally, the lead or the device becomes infected. In either case, the leads need to be removed and replaced.

The Procedure

What to Know About Lead Extraction Surgery

Lead extraction is a delicate operation. It requires a surgeon to carefully remove the wires from a blood vessel leading to the heart.

Every person’s lead extraction is personalized. In general, the procedure involves certain steps:

  1. You’ll meet with your doctors and their clinical team, who will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. You might want to bring a friend or relative to help you ask questions and remember instructions.
  2. Before the procedure, your surgeon will review your records and imaging to plan the lead extraction approach. Our goal is to make the smallest incision possible and use the least-invasive technique, so that you’ll have the best results and be as comfortable as possible afterward.
  3. Most often, lead extractions are done under general anesthesia. You’ll be asleep before the procedure starts.
  4. Working in the area with the pacemaker or defibrillator, your surgeon will use a precision laser and other tools to carefully remove any scar tissue that’s grown around the lead.
  5. After the leads are removed, your surgical team can place new leads and a new device.


Recovering After Lead Extraction

Lead extraction usually is a quick procedure. As with any surgery, you’ll need to rest and follow your doctor’s instructions afterward.

In general, after the procedure:

  1. You’ll stay in the hospital at least overnight. Most people can go home in a day or two.
  2. If your device and leads were infected, you may need to be treated with antibiotics for a few days before the new leads and device can be placed.
  3. You’ll want to take off work for a few days to rest and heal. Be sure that you have someone to drive you home and stay with you for a few days to help as you begin your recovery.
  4. You’ll have important follow-up appointments to test and program the pacemaker or defibrillator, to ensure that it is working properly.
  5. Your doctor will let you know when you can drive and resume other regular activities.

Learn more about living with a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).

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