The Case of the Exploding ICD, the Disappearing Journal Article, and a Defensive Blogger

The story so far:

The official ESC journal Europace publishes an online case report by Dr. Martin Hudec about the extremely rare and spectacular failure of a recently implanted Biotronik 340 VR-T ICD in a 46-year-old man. The battery of the device apparently overheated, causing the device to malfunction and leading to severe internal burning.

On Wednesday, October 6, US electrophysiologist Westby Fisher summarizes the Europace article on his blog and reprints several extremely gruesome pictures taken from the case report.

At 9:22 PM CST Fisher updates his blog with the information that the case report is no longer available on the Europace website. The Europace website contains no explanation for the withdrawal/retraction.

On Thursday morning Fisher removes his earlier post and adds a new post, Defensive Blogging, explaining his reasons for removing the post. Fisher writes that he’s written to Europace editor John Camm asking about the disappearance of the article.

The story continues in the comments section of Defensive Blogging. Fisher posts a letter he received from Hudec, the author of the case report, who goes on at great length about his decision to withdraw the case report “voluntarily” after he “received new important information.” However, the only important information he shares with Fisher is that he is concerned about “some kind of media sensation being created without the facts.”

Hudec also takes issue with the word “explosion” and says that engineers prefer the term “venting.”

The term “explosion” is not accurate. After talking to engineers the more appropriate word would be ‘venting’ of the battery. The shape of ICD was distorted, but not ruptured in any way.

Hudec further tells Fisher that “Professor Camm and I have discussed this situation, and he fully supports the conclusion that the inaccuracies in the case report require the withdrawal.” With the possible exception of the use of the word “explosion” it is hard to know to what inaccuracies Hudac is referring. The real problem seems to be this:

This was a singular event, and I do not agree that all the negative discussion around these devices is appropriate.

For an update to this post, please see The Plot Thickens in the Case of the Exploding ICD.

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