Smaller wireless pacemakers may transform cardiac care

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

Each year, 200,000 people will undergo surgery to have a pacemaker implanted. The biggest problem with traditional pacemakers is that the leads, the wires used to send electrical currents into the heart to shock it back into rhythm, can break or fail. But a new type of pacemaker may keep hearts going without using any wires at all.

It’s important for people to ask themselves certain questions as they get older: How did I feel six months ago? How do I feel now? How did I feel last year? Am I able to do the things that I used to do six months ago?  The answers to these questions can reveal a lot. Sometimes it’s age; sometimes it’s a sign you have a heart problem.

“Patients experience fatigue, tiredness, lightheadedness, dizziness, inability to meet the needs of daily life,” said Venkata Sagi, electrophysiologist at Baptist Health.

People with slower-than-normal heart rates may need a pacemaker that sends electrical impulses to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. Sagi is leading a study using a new leadless, or wireless, pacemaker that’s smaller than a AAA battery. Unlike traditional pacemakers, this new leadless pacemaker does not require a large incision in the chest. Instead, a catheter is used to insert it inside the heart.

“The advantage of this new technology is that there are two separate pacemakers that are implanted; one in the bottom chamber, one in the top chamber,” Sagi said.

The two devices wirelessly communicate with each other to restore a normal heart rhythm—a newer, easier way to keep hearts in sync.

“They will find a remarkable improvement in their quality of life immediately,” Sagi said.

Another advantage of the wireless pacemaker is that it is retrievable. When the existing FDA-approved devices fail or need to be replaced, the pacemaker is usually left inside, and another one is put in beside it. Doctors can remove a leadless pacemaker with another minimally invasive catheter procedure and put in a new one.

The final phase of the global clinical trial is underway right now. By the end of 2023, researchers hope to get final approval from the FDA.

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