Teeny-Tiny Mini Pacemaker

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Dr. Michael Smith
Surgeons have been opening chests and implanting pacemakers for decades. The devices save millions of people by controlling their abnormal heartbeats. Now doctors are testing a new version of these lifegivers. The novel design that’s being tested is 90% smaller than other pacemakers, comes all in one piece -- and doesn’t require surgery. It also reduces the risk of complications from traditional pacemakers, which have a battery, a generator, and wires. The wires are threaded into your heart through a vein. A metal box with the battery and generator goes under your skin through an incision. It works, but it’s bulky in comparison to what could be the next generation. Seventy-seven-year-old Mary Lou Trejo is happy with the new model she got at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “There’s a lot of heart disease in my family and I thought this is a way that I could contribute, and I thought it would be very interesting.” The tiny mechanism is slipped into an artery in a person’s leg. Surgeons use small prongs to push it into place in the heart. What’s more, the pacemaker monitors the heartbeat and activates only when it needs to. Dr. John Hummel explains: “If it stops for a moment, the pacemaker will kick in and keep your heart trundling right along. So, with that sort of therapy, with intermittent pacing, it can last as long as 14 years.” If tests confirm the 14-year span of this miniature device, that just about doubles the battery life of the traditional pacemaker. A longer lasting, simpler pacemaker about the size of a vitamin -- it’s a big development on a small scale. For WebMD, I’m Dr. Michael Smith.