US medical manufacturing company Medtronic has created what is the world’s smallest pacemaker – the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS).
It addresses two main issues with traditional pacemakers, which are…
1) The need to create a ‘surgical pocket’ under the skin
size of a 50-cent coin but roughly three times at thick. This component must be fitted surgically, that is through an incision which results in a scar. There is also a small risk of infection and bleeding and there can be some ongoing pain. The Micra TPS, which is about the size of a large vitamin pill, is placed directly into the heart itself, on the internal heart wall.
2) The need for leads
A conventional pacemaker involves placing electric leads (cardiac wires) from the device into the heart. Leads can become damaged or malfunction, or even damage the heart valves. The new device is ‘leadless’, that is it does not require any leads at all.
The new device is designed to help patients with dangerous irregular heartbeats – called arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation and bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome, where the heart either beats too slowly or too fast.
The new pacemaker is implanted using a small straw like catheter that is inserted into a vein in the groin through a small incision in the skin and guided up and into the right ventricle of the heart through the vein.
The Micra TPS also allows the ‘wearer’ to undergo MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans and to go through airport security machines without a problem, unlike some older style pacemakers, although the manufacturers nevertheless recommend keeping magnetic devices (mobile phones, magnetic therapy devices, stereo speakers for example) at least 15cm away from the device.
The batteries in the Micra TPS last on average for 12 years, at which point it can be turned off or retrieved.
The only drawback of the new device is that it does not replace all pacemaker types – it is a ventricular pacemaker, also known as a ‘single chamber’ pacemaker, which only suits patients with the conditions listed above. This represents around 10% of people who require pacemakers. The manufacturer is currently developing other multi-chamber miniature pacemakers.
To find out more about the Micra TPS pacemaker contact your HeartHealth specialist.