Heart experts from Southampton have successfully fitted the world's smallest pacemaker inside a patient. The Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, which is a little larger than an antibiotic pill, was implanted directly into the patient's heart for the first time in the UK.
It was conducted as a part of a clinical study at the Southampton General Hospital using a revolutionary new technology to make the later lives of heart patients much easier with tiny pacemakers.
The procedure was mentioned as a "landmark moment" by Prof. John Morgan, consultant cardiologist. The device was one tenth the size of traditional pacemakers. Conventional pacemakers use electrical impulses to control the beating of the heart and are fitted under the skin that connects to the heart through a lead. The lead carries electrical signals in order to regulate irregular heartbeats but may require replacements in case of any dislodge or broken wires.
"While pacemakers have saved countless thousands of lives over the past seven decades since the first devices were implanted, one of the major drawbacks has been complications related to the pacing lead that is put in to deliver electrical impulses to the heart." Daily Echo quoted John Morgan.
But the new smaller version, called the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, is fitted directly into the heart wall by a catheter and delivers electrical impulse from an electrode, thereby eliminating the need for a lead.
"Now we have pacemakers that are so small - not much larger than an antibiotic pill - they can be attached directly inside the heart, all the problems related to the old-fashioned pacemaker lead are abolished." He added.
The new advanced technology has several potential benefits.
One of the most important advantages is the elimination of a lead or wire that is used in standard pacemakers. These leads sometimes come under immense pressure, which can then be a source of complications.
Moreover, conventional pacemakers are fitted under the skin of the chest, which can increase the risk of infection. Whereas, the tiny pacemaker employed in these trials is implanted through catheter from the groin and then directly placed into the heart.
"In addition to the advantages of the device's size and wireless technology, the procedure reduces the risk of infection and extended recovery time associated with traditional, more invasive surgical pacemaker implants." BBC News quoted Morgan.
"This is a big step forward in patient treatment and a milestone for cardiac rhythm management in the UK." Morgan added.
The new pacemaker used in Southampton is 26mm long and weighs 2gm and can claim to be the world's smallest pacemaker.
Nanostim, another rival system from St Jude Medical is undergoing trials. The device is 41 mm long.
A third technology is also under development by EBR Systems. The technology involves a pacemaker fitted under the skin, which then send wireless ultrasound energy to an electrode – about the size of a rice grain and implanted in the left ventricle.