What Australians are paying for a pacemaker to save their lives?

What Australians are paying for a pacemaker to save their lives?


A pacemaker is a device that is implanted in individuals to regulate their heartbeat. Typically pacemakers are fitted to rectify heartbeat where the heart rate is slower than normal, mostly for elder citizens but it may also be inserted to correct heart rate that beats faster than normal as well. Using a pacemaker can help extend the survival span as well as improve the quality of life for people with a heart condition.

The device works by conducting electrical impulses to regulate heart beat and its use has helped save the lives of many people who suffer from irregular patterns of heart beat. With new advances in technology, contemporary pacemakers are now devised with MRI compatibility allowing the individual to get MRI scans done without the threat of making the pacemakers malfunction.

Previously those people fitted with artificial pacemakers could not avail this facility as magnetic fields generated by the scanners would make pacemakers malfunction causing abnormal cardiac rhythms for those involved. But now with MRI compliance in place, the devices allow patients to be scanned for cancers, strokes or other conditions with the pacemaker already in place. The new pacemaker is equally suitable for older as well as younger patients who may need to get scanned in the future for their health.

The device with all its features comes at a cost of $11,500 for the patients. It is estimated that about half a million Australians live with a heart condition and out of these a number could benefit from the new technology. Already about 330 patients have been fitted with this device since its availability while another 17,500 patients had conventional pacemakers fitted last year. In the medical community, the aim is to eventually have all pacemakers manufactured as MRI compatible.

For patients likely to suffer from heart failure, a new type of pacemaker that can resynchronise cardiac rhythms can be inserted. The device is suitable for those whose left heart ventricle is prone to generate dangerous internal rhythms. With the insertion of this type of pacemaker, patients can then hope to enjoy a longer survival rate, experience a better quality of life and participate in everyday activities like walking faster, and doing a variety of exercises that can assist in improving overall health.

The device is an expensive investment and incurs a cost of $30,000 when compared to a conventional pacemaker that can cost up to $10,000.

The high out of pocket costs of devices like pacemakers can somewhat be slashed where patients have access to private health insurance. Typically most insurers cover the cost to 30% by private insurance rebate but even that leaves a large amount to be paid for every pacemaker. Another concern is that private hospitals are charging Australian health funds a lot more for these devices when compared to other locations around the globe.

One example is a particular brand of pacemakers the cost of which comes to about $5,884 when sold in Belgium but the same product costs around $11,780 in Australia.


1) Doctor plan to cut health costs: https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/22916683/doctor-plan-to-cut-health-costs

2) Patients march to beat of different pacemaker: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/05/20/1085028467075.html?from=storylhs

3) New pacemaker safe for MRI scans: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/new-pacemaker-safe-for-mri-scans/story-e6frg6nf-1225913530387

4) What Is It Going To Cost?: http://healthtopics.hcf.com.au/CardiacPacemakersDefibrillators.aspx