Introduction: The extraction of chronically implanted and infected pacemaker and defibrillator leads is an important issue. This article describes the experience gathered between 1990 and 1994 by seven European centers regarding a locking stylet that is uniformly applicable for a wide variety of internal pacing coil diameters. This interventional locking stylet for lead extraction has an outer diameter of 0.4 mm (0.016 inches). The stylet consists of a hollow shaft in which an inner traction wire is embedded. At the tip of the inner traction wire an anchoring mechanism, which can be opened by retraction, is applied. Removal attempts were made for 150 leads, 110 in ventricular and 40 in atrial positions.
Results: Complete removal was possible in 122 cases (81%). Partial removal was possible in 18 cases (12%). Failure to remove the lead with the extraction stylet was experienced in 10 cases (7%). In seven patients, the leads were removed by cardiothoracic surgery; 3 defective leads were left in place. There were no serious complications associated with the procedure. None of the patients died.
Conclusion: The experience with this extraction stylet for lead removal has shown good results. Despite a low complication rate thus far, each case for lead removal should be judged on the individual basis of benefit-to-risk ratio.