Method for Estimating Lead Performance

Medtronic Cardiac Rhythm Management (CRM) has tracked lead survival for over 39 years with its multicenter, global chronic lead studies.

Leads Performance Analysis

Implanted leads operate in the challenging biochemical environment of the human body and the body’s response to foreign objects. Implanted leads are also subject to mechanical stresses associated with heart motion, body motion, and patient anatomy.

In this environment, pacemaker and defibrillation leads cannot be expected to last forever. While IPGs and ICDs have a battery that will deplete after a predictable length of time, a lead’s longevity cannot be predicted easily based on mechanical measurements, nor are there simple indicators that a lead is approaching the end of its service life. Therefore, regular monitoring while implanted, and evaluation of lead integrity upon IPG or ICD replacement, is necessary to determine if a lead may be approaching the end of its service life.

Shortfalls Of Using Returned Product And Complaints To Estimate Lead Performance

Leads and lead segments returned to Medtronic are analyzed to determine whether or not they meet performance limits established by Medtronic. Although returned product analyses are valuable for gaining insight into lead failure mechanisms, this data cannot be used by itself for determining the survival probability of leads because only a small fraction of leads are explanted and returned for analysis. Some leads are modified due to adverse device effect, however may not be explanted. Additionally, those leads that are returned cannot be assumed to be statistically representative of the performance of the total population for a given lead model. Partial or total lead extraction can result in significant damage to a lead, making a definitive analysis of a suspected failure, and its cause, impossible.

To account for the under reporting inherent with lead survival analysis based solely on returned product, some manufacturers add reported complaints where adverse product performance is evident but the product itself has not been returned. The improvement to the accuracy of survival estimates depends on the degree to which all complaints are actually communicated to the manufacturer. Since not all complaints are communicated to the manufacturer, adding complaints to the survival analysis does not completely solve the under reporting problem.

Lead survival probabilities are more appropriately determined through a prospective clinical surveillance study that includes active follow up with the patients. Although Medtronic monitors returned product analysis and complaints, these are not used to determine lead survival estimates.

Medtronic consolidated all cardiac rhythm surveillance registries into the PAN Registry. The PAN Registry is a patient centric surveillance platform which follows patients implanted with Medtronic cardiac rhythm product(s). The Product Performance Report (PPR) tracks PAN Registry enrolled patients to monitor lead performance status in vivo. The PAN Registry is designed to record clinical observations representative of the total clinical experience. Lead survival estimates include both lead hardware failure and lead-related clinical events that are classified as product performance events, and do not differentiate a lead hardware failure from other clinical events such as Failure to capture, perforation, dislodgement, or concurrent pulse generator failure.

PAN Registry

Medtronic has been monitoring the performance of its cardiac therapy products with a multicenter study since 1983 and has evaluated the performance of more than 131,000 leads, with data reported from countries around the world. Throughout this time period, Medtronic has continually worked to adapt systems and processes to more effectively monitor product performance following market release. The following summarizes current registry requirements.

Medtronic’s product surveillance registry is a world-wide study that has a prospective, non-randomized, observational design. A key purpose of the registry is to provide continuing evaluation and periodic reporting of the long-term reliability and performance of Medtronic market-released cardiac rhythm therapy products. Product-related adverse events, indicating the status of the product, are collected to measure product survival probabilities. The data gathered may also be used to support the design and development of new cardiac therapy products. The registry is designed to continue indefinitely, encompassing new products as they become commercially available.

To ensure a sufficiently large and representative source of data, participating clinical sites must meet pre-specified selection criteria. Patients are enrolled upon implantation of a Medtronic Cardiac rhythm product. Every effort is made to ensure participants are representative of the range of clinical environments in which Medtronic cardiac rhythm products are used. Eligible products for enrollment include Medtronic market-released cardiac rhythm therapy products for which additional information to further characterize product performance following market release is desired. Number of enrollments is reviewed regularly to ensure adequate sample size is obtained for each individual product. Enrollment may be capped and follow-up discontinued when sufficient duration and precision is achieved to effectively characterize product survivability.

Enrolled patients are followed in accordance with the standard care practices of their care provider from their implant date until they can no longer be followed (e.g., death, lost to follow-up, etc.). However, to ensure regular patient status assessments are completed, follow-up windows consistent with typical care practices have been established with a minimum annual follow-up requirement. Product-related adverse events, system modifications and changes in patient status (e.g. death and withdrawal from the study) are required to be reported upon occurrence. This active surveillance model ensures a robust dataset for effectively monitoring product performance.

Patients are eligible for enrollment if:

  • Patient is intended to be implanted or has been implanted with a Medtronic market-released cardiac lead connected to a market-released CRT, ICD, or IPG device, and the lead is used for a pacing, sensing, or defibrillation application, or
  • Patient participated in a qualifying investigational study of a Medtronic cardiac rhythm product that is now market-released; complete implant and follow-up data are available; and the data can be appropriately and legally released

Each site is required to inform Medtronic whenever a lead event has occurred, a lead is modified, or when a patient is no longer participating. Timely, accurate, and complete reporting and analysis of safety information for surveillance is crucial for the protection of patients, clinicians, and the sponsor. Medtronic continually evaluates the quality and integrity of the data through a combination of on-site and centralized monitoring activities.

Lead Complications

Chronic lead performance is characterized by estimating lead related complication free survival probabilities. For analysis purposes, the complication criteria, which align with the AdvaMed ‘Industry Guidance for Uniform Reporting of Clinical Performance of Cardiac Rhythm Management Pulse Generators and Leads’, are defined below. These criteria do not, however, enable a lead integrity or "hardware" failure to be conclusively differentiated from other clinical events such as an undetected lead dislodgement, perforation, or concurrent pulse generator failure manifested as a sensing or capture problem.

All reported lead-related adverse events are classified by the reporting investigator and are adjudicated by an independent event adjudication committee1. A lead-related event with at least one of the following classifications that is adjudicated by the committee as a complication and occurs more than 30 days after implant is considered a product performance event and will contribute to the survival analysis endpoint. Events with an onset date of 30 days or less after the implant are considered procedure related and therefore are not included as product performance events.

Product performance events include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to capture
  • Failure to sense/undersensing
  • Oversensing
  • Elevated pacing thresholds
  • Abnormal pacing impedance (based on lead model, but normal range is typically 200 - 2,000 ohms)
  • Abnormal defibrillation impedance (based on lead model, but normal range is typically 20 - 200 ohms)
  • Lead Insulation breach
  • Lead Conductor fracture, confirmed electrically, visually or radiographically
  • Extracardiac stimulation
  • Cardiac perforation
  • Lead dislodgement
  • Structural Lead Failure

Data Analysis Methods

The performance of leads is expressed in terms of lead survival estimates, where "survival" refers to the function of the lead, not the survival of the patient. These survival estimates are intended to illustrate the probability that a lead will survive for a given number of years without a chronic lead-related complication.

Active surveillance normally begins at the time of implant and continues until a product performance or censoring event occurs. In some cases, in the PAN Registry, active surveillance of a device starts after the device was implanted. The survival probability of such device is conditional on survival to the time when the device enters the Registry. This phenomenon is called Left-truncation2. PPR lead survival analysis is estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method, a statistical method to incorporate data from these retrospectively enrolled devices, left-truncated data, was applied. The statistical technique uses data from existing devices while appropriately adjusting the device survival curves for the time the device was not actively followed in the registry. Thus, in some cases sample sizes may fluctuate from one time interval to the next interval.

The survival estimates is the probability that a lead is free of a product performance event at a given time point. For example, if a survival probability is 95% after 5 years of service, then the lead has a 5% chance of experiencing a lead-related complication in the first 5 years following implant.

The data in the tables is rounded to the nearest tenth of one percent. Occasionally, a graph may show 100% survival, but have one or more complications. This occurs because even with the complications, the data rounds to 100%.

The survival curves are statistical estimates. As sample size increases and performance experience accumulates, the estimation improves. Confidence intervals are provided as a way to indicate the degree of certainty of the estimates. Greenwood’s formula is used to calculate the standard errors, and the log-log method is used to produce the 2-sided 95% confidence bounds.

Since the survival estimate can become very imprecise with small effective sample sizes, Medtronic truncates the survival curve when the number of leads entering an interval is less than 50 leads. When the number of leads entering an interval reaches 50, the next data point is added to the survival curve. For those lead models that do not have sufficient sample size, a survival curve will not be presented.

Definition of Analysis Dataset

The survival estimates are derived from all device components successfully enrolled as of the data received cut-off date (e.g. date of data entry at a study site). The number of enrollments is listed for each lead model.

This sample is considered to be representative of the worldwide population, and therefore the survival estimates shown should be representative of the performance worldwide of these models.

Criteria for Model Inclusion

Survival probabilities and the associated study information for a model or model family will be published when more than 100 leads have been enrolled and no fewer than 50 leads followed for at least 6 months. Medtronic, at its discretion, may stop providing updated performance information on lead models that received original US market-release approval 20 or more years ago.

Returned Product Analysis Results

Although the returned product analysis data is not used to generate the survival estimates, the data provides valuable insight into the causes of lead malfunction.

For reporting returned product analysis results, Medtronic CRM considers a lead as having malfunctioned whenever the analysis shows that any parameter was outside the performance limits established by Medtronic while implanted and in service. To be considered a malfunction for returned product analysis reporting, the lead must have been returned to Medtronic and analyzed.

The results of the analysis are presented in four categories. The lead reporting categories are:

Conductor Fracture: Conductor malfunction with complete or intermittent loss of continuity that could interrupt current flow (e.g., fractured conductors), including those associated with clavicle flex fatigue or crush damage.

Insulation Breach: A malfunction of the insulation allowing inappropriate entry of body fluids or inappropriate current flow between the conductors, or between the conductor and the body. Examples include cuts, tears, depressions, abrasions, and material degradation.

Crimps/Welds/Bonds: Any malfunction in a conductor or lead body associated with a point of connection.

Other: Malfunctions of specific lead mechanical attributes, such as sensors, connectors, seal rings, or malfunction modes not included in the three categories above.

A lead subject to a safety advisory is not considered to have malfunctioned unless it has been returned to Medtronic CRM and found, through analysis, to actually have performed outside the performance limits established by Medtronic.

For leads designed for either ventricular or atrial use, the numbers listed in the Returned Product Analysis tables include both.

The numbers of malfunctions listed in the Returned Product Analysis tables are the actual numbers confirmed in the returned product analysis. The numbers of complications listed in the complications tables are the actual numbers observed in the PSR centers around the world.

US Reports of Acute Lead Observations (Occurring within First Month of Service)

In the first weeks following lead implantation, physiologic responses and lead performance can vary until long-term lead stability is attained. Acute (defined as the first month after implant) lead performance may be subject to a number of factors, including patient-specific anatomy, clinical conditions and/or varying implant conditions/techniques. After a period of time, the implant and the lead performance stabilizes. It is for this reason that the Product Surveillance Registry results, which are intended to measure long-term performance, do not include complications that occur within the first 30 days after implant.

Information about the clinical experience in the first month of service is included in our reporting. The source for this information is Medtronic‘s complaint handling system database. The information is summarized in tables titled "US Reports of Acute Lead Observations."

Each Event Report received by Medtronic’s complaint handling system is assigned one or more Reason for Report codes based on the information received. The Reason for Report codes have been grouped into Acute Lead Observation categories. The categories used for this product performance reporting are drawn from the "FDA Guidance for Submission of Research and Marketing Applications for Permanent Pacemaker Leads and for Pacemaker Lead Adapter 510(k) Submissions." The categories are:

  1. Cardiac Perforation
  2. Conductor Fracture
  3. Lead Dislodgement
  4. Failure to Capture
  5. Oversensing
  6. Failure to Sense
  7. Insulation Breach
  8. Impedance Abnormal
  9. Extracardiac Stimulation
  10. Unspecified

Although multiple observations are possible for any given lead, only one observation is reported per lead. The observation reported is the observation highest on the list. For example, if an Event Report includes observations for both Lead Dislodgement and Failure to Sense, Lead Dislodgement is reported.

The lead event reported to Medtronic may or may not have involved clinical action or product returned to Medtronic. The lead may have remained implanted and in service.

Estimated Number of Implanted and Active Leads in the United States

In addition to providing the number of leads enrolled in the PSR, we also provide the number of leads registered as implanted and the number remaining active in the United States based on the status recorded in the Medtronic Device Registration Tracking Application (DTrak).


1During the evolution of SLS, event adjudication was transitioned from a Medtronic technical review committee to an independent event adjudication committee in 2011. Data analyses include adjudication using both methods.

2Klein, John P., Moeschberger, Melvin L. Survival Analysis Techniques for Censored and Truncated Data, New York: Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., 1997. 901050