UK patient fitted with pill-sized pacemaker

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A pill-sized pacemaker has been fitted into a patient by surgeons in Southampton.

The patient at Southampton General Hospital becomes the first in the UK to be fitted with Medtronic’s Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, a wireless device that is one-tenth the size of traditional models and is implanted directly in the heart.

Pacemakers are currently inserted under the skin via an incision in the chest and connected to the heart through a lead that carries electrical signals to correct slow or irregular heartbeats. A major drawback, however, is that can require replacement due to broken or dislodged wires.

The new device, which is placed inside the wall of the heart by a catheter passed up through the groin, delivers electrical impulses from an electrode, removing the need for a lead to transmit signals.

‘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,’ said consultant cardiologist Prof John Morgan, who performed the first two procedures with colleague Dr Paul Roberts as part of a clinical trial of the device at Southampton General Hospital.

‘Now we have pacemakers that are so small - not much larger than an antibiotic pill - they can be attached directly to the inside of the heart, all the problems related to the old-fashioned pacemaker lead are abolished.’

In a statement, Prof Morgan said the introduction of the device and launch of the study at Southampton General Hospital – which is the only trial centre in the UK – was a landmark moment.

‘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,’ he said. ‘This a big step forward in patient treatment and a milestone for cardiac rhythm management in the UK.’

The first Micra Transcatheter Pacing System was implanted in a patient in Linz, Austria in 2013 as part of the Medtronic global pivotal clinical trial.