When medical devices show their human-ness…

…patients might die.

My newest post is up on Trials and Fibrillations over at

A heart rhythm doctor makes a living using and installing medical devices. These man-made, man-engineered and man-maneuvered devices can sometimes epitomize beautiful therapies. (Ask the former vice-president if he likes medical devices.)

When used skillfully, complex medical devices may save a person’s life. And fortunately, as technology advances these devices get better and better. But…like most things that advance, growth isn’t always perfectly linear.

There are hiccups.

Life-saving internal cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) have had their share of missteps.

The function of a defibrillator depends on the signals received from the lead that is attached or screwed into the heart muscle. This lead must sense, pace and then deliver 750 volts in the event of a cardiac arrest. That wire must endure 100,000 heart contractions per day, for years on end. It must be durable.

My post addresses the latest imperfection in ICD leads. Though many of you may find the details of the ICD defect medically specific, I also try to offer up a big picture view of how innovative technology abuts human imperfection.

Here’s a sample…

Although it’s disquieting to witness human fallibility in the practice of medicine, the upside of mistakes comes from how much they teach us. In learning from our mistakes, we must strive to prevent the stifling of innovation that comes from fear, excessive pre-market regulation, and pessimism.

I appreciate the support of the folks at They are awfully nice to me.


2 replies on “When medical devices show their human-ness…”

thanks for the link to your article at otherwise i’d have a tough time following you.

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