Heart Health

20 October 2016

WATCH: World’s smallest pacemaker implanted in SA patient

No bigger than a medicine capsule, the device is being called 'groundbreaking'.

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The world’s smallest pacemaker, measuring 6,7 mm in diameter, has been implanted into the heart of a 74-year-old woman from Brackenfell in Cape Town.

This groundbreaking commercial implant, the first of its kind in Africa post FDA approval, was done by Dr Razeen Gopal, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the Cape Town Atrial Fibrillation Centre, located in Mediclinic Panorama.

Read: How do pacemakers set the heart's pace?

Size does matter

The minute pacemaker is entirely leadless, and at 6.7 mm in diameter and 25.9 mm in length is only one-tenth the size of an ordinary pacemaker. It is implanted directly in the right ventricle of the heart.

“It looks like a small medicine capsule and will definitely change the industry and become the standard practice,” Gopal tells Health24.

Unlike a traditional pacemaker, the Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) is implanted directly into the heart muscle.

“It does not require leads or a surgical ‘pocket’ under the skin, minimising potential infection,” says Gopal.

Read: Pacemakers and ICDs

The pacemaker is hooked onto the heart muscle with special hooks, called tines. It is inserted into the right ventricle, where it is carefully positioned and placed at the bottom of the ventricle.

smallest pacemaker

               A traditional pacemaker (on the left) and the world's smallest one (on the right). Photo: Provided

Many benefits

According to Gopal there are several benefits to this revolutionary procedure:

  • It is MRI compatible. “It will not interfere with a scan like traditional pacemakers do.”
  • The risk for contracting an infection is significantly lowered. “There’s no direct channel from the outside to the inside of the body,” Gopal explains. “This significantly reduces the risk of infection.”
  • It has a longer battery life. The life of a traditional pacemaker battery is 6–8 years, but this one can last up to 12 years.
  • It’s more user friendly. “A patient doesn’t have to worry about sleeping on the battery or rubbing up against things,” says Gopal. “It frees you up.”

The future

Although Gopal believes the new pacemaker will become standard, it will take some time to trickle into the SA market.

“It is currently expensive, and each country has different prices for this imported device, but as soon as the volumes go up, the price will come down.

“The benefits will far outweigh the cost and it will change the way we insert a pacemaker.”

Here's Dr Gopal in action:

Read more:

Self-winding pacemaker needs no battery

'Wireless' pacemaker working well so far

FDA approves first wire-free pacemaker