Two patients at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC) have been implanted with the world’s smallest pacemaker, in the first procedures of this type to be carried out in the East of England.
The cutting edge devices are less than one tenth of the size of a conventional pacemaker, and do not require a lead to be threaded into the heart.
The implants were carried out by Dr Stuart Harris, consultant cardiologist and clinical director of the CTC at Basildon University Hospital.
Dr Harris explains: “A traditional pacemaker involves a device the size of a tea bag to be implanted under the skin in the upper chest. A lead from the pacemaker is threaded into the heart to carry electrical signals to help it beat regularly.
“The new Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, known as the invisible pacemaker, is 93% smaller than a traditional pacemaker and lasts as long. No lead is required because it is small enough to be implanted into the heart chamber through a vein in the patient’s leg, in a minimally invasive procedure.
“The component of a traditional pacemaker that is most likely to fail is the lead, so these new pacemakers are more reliable. And because they are so small, the implant only involves a small incision, meaning a reduced risk of infection for the patient, no visible sign of the device and a greater chance of resuming their normal activities.”
A pacemaker is designed to send an electrical impulse to the heart when the rhythm is too slow or is interrupted. It also monitors the heart’s activity, and does not deliver a pacing pulse when that is normal. The new leadless pacemaker is suitable for patients who need a pacemaker for a single chamber of the heart.
Joshua Taylor, aged 25, (left) was the first patient to receive the leadless pacemaker at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre. Joshua, a pharmacy store manager and pharmacy technician, had experienced unexplained black-outs since he was 11 years old.
He said: “I was under the care of a specialist children’s hospital, and had every test under the sun, but they couldn’t work out why I was fainting. The problem went away for a few years then last year I had a black-out as I was getting ready for bed. I was unconscious for a few minutes.”
Joshua was referred to Basildon Hospital to see Dr Jason Dungu, consultant cardiologist. He was given several tests, including seven day electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring to check the rhythm and electrical activity of his heart, blood pressure monitoring and an echocardiogram (heart scan). The results showed his heartbeat was pausing at intervals.
He continued: “I was fitted with a heart monitor and at my first follow-up appointment, the doctors saw that the pauses had increased.
“Dr Dungu said I would need a pacemaker and he would refer me to Dr Harris in the CTC to have one of the new leadless ones fitted.
“When I met Dr Harris he gave me a very good explanation of the new technology; he had recently been for training in the United States. Being the first patient to receive a leadless pacemaker made me feel slightly apprehensive, but I could see the advantages and he reassured me that if there were any problems, I could have a traditional one fitted.”
Outside his work, Joshua edits a pharmacy technicians’ trade journal and plays the piano. He has now returned to his job in the pharmacy store and is looking forward to resuming his busy life.
He added: “I feel very well. The care and treatment at the CTC has been amazing.”
Issued by: Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Communications Office
Heart patients group raises £50,000 for hospital equipment and offers two defibrillators to the community
Patients with heart conditions at Basildon University Hospital and The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (CTC) are benefiting from specialist equipment, thanks to the fundraising efforts of a local cardiac support group.
Basildon Hearts and Minds is run by people with heart problems and offers support and information to others who have conditions such as angina and heart attack. They work closely with the hospital cardiac rehabilitation teams.
The group has also purchased two life-saving defibrillators and is inviting local clubs, schools and businesses to apply to receive one.
Fortunately for Tony, Club Kingswood in Basildon has a defibrillator and he was resuscitated by staff who performed CPR and defibrillation after finding him collapsed.
He was taken to the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre at Basildon Hospital, and had a quadruple by-pass operation. Following surgery he completed cardiac rehabilitation and has made a good recovery. Doctors said that the fact he was very fit meant the damage to his heart was reduced.
Dr Stuart Harris
First patients in East of England fitted with world’s smallest pacemaker
Dr Stuart Harris, consultant cardiologist at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre, compares a traditional pacemaker (left hand) with the new leadless version (right hand