10/17/2012 02:45 EDT | Updated 12/17/2012 05:12 EST

Pacemaker leads pose rare risk of cardiac strangulation in kids wearing device

OTTAWA - Health Canada says there is a rare, but potential risk of cardiac strangulation in children implanted with epicardial wires connected to a pacemaker.

The wires are used in children with heart rhythm abnormalities for which a pacemaker is essential.

These wires, or leads, are fixed on the outer surface of the heart. But as a child grows, the wires can compress the heart, leading to cardiac strangulation.

Symptoms of cardiac strangulation greatly vary among patients. Heart compression by the leads can cause chest pain, general fatigue, fainting and symptoms of heart failure.

Parents of children implanted with epicardial pacemaker leads should be aware of these symptoms and speak with their doctor if they notice any of them or if they want additional information about the risk, Health Canada said Wednesday.

Rare cases of cardiac strangulation in children implanted with the pacemaker wires have been reported in Canada. Eight international cases of cardiac strangulation, including two deaths, have been reported in medical journals.

In some cases, cardiac strangulation was diagnosed early and the patients underwent successful corrective surgery to replace the lead.