Capsule sized pacemaker: A boon for patients

Capsule sized pacemaker: A boon for patients (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

It was the size of a capsule, but for Kumar*, it provided a new lease of life. The 87-year old, with a heart rate of less than 60 a minute, received a pacemaker, one-tenth the size of a traditional device, directly in the heart.

After a 20-minute minimally invasive procedure at Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre’s cath lab, the device began sending electrical impulses to stabilise the heart rate and he was discharged in three days.

Dr T R Muralidharan, cardiology department head, said the new generation pacemaker made of a titanium and steel alloy needed no leads or surgical pockets to place in the body and connect it with the heart. It is right inside the heart, and hence MRI-friendly . A traditional pacemaker is placed under the skin close to the chest while a lead connects it with the heart to which it sends electric impulses. ” So far, five patients have received the device in the country since it was approved by the government early this year,” he said. About 30,000 pacemaker implants take place annually.

Kumar, doctors said, was admitted with recurrent loss of consciousness and a very slow pulse rate. His heart was unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body. The heart beat was increased with a temporary pacemaker. He, however, required a permanent device to keep the heart beating. But the veins close to the collar bone usually used to perform the standard pacemaker implant procedure were blocked.

The new gen pacemaker, made by US-based Medtronic, gave doctors the option of using a blood vessel in the leg to place it directly in the right ventricle using a pen-sized delivery system tube. Four tentacles on the device clung to the walls of the heart, while the cathode end sent electric impulses to keep it beating. Doctors said the procedure cannot be done on children as a fully-grown blood vessel was required.

“But the cost of the device is comparatively higher, as it was recently approved. We expect it to come down in the future once more patients start using it and more companies start producing it,” said Dr Muralidharan.


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