Implanted Defibrillators Found Cost-Effective

doctors in surgeryImplanting defibrillators in high-risk patients not only saves lives but makes good financial sense, researchers have concluded.

In an analysis of data from eight studies, researchers compared the number of added years of life for people who got the devices against the cost of implanting or replacing these devices.

They found that defibrillators meet the current cost-benefit criterion, which sets the dollar value of an extra year of quality life at about $50,000, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“These devices are quite expensive, but if used in the appropriate patients they are good value for money,” said study leader Gillian D. Sanders, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center.

That conclusion could have enormous financial implications, since the U.S. government this year authorized Medicare and Medicaid to pay for the devices. An estimated 500,000 older Americans might be eligible for defibrillators, whose average implantation cost runs close to $28,000.

Defibrillators, which deliver an electrical jolt to maintain a regular heartbeat, originally were implanted only in people who survived cardiac arrest, but their use quickly expanded to persons with other severe heart problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that 416,000 defibrillators were implanted between 1990 and 2002.