Feb. 14 - In a clinical trial, sixteen patients in the Czech Republic have been given state-of-the-art pacemakers, implanted directly into the heart. The devices are smaller, lighter and more convenient than conventional pacemakers, and can be inserted without the need for invasive surgery. Ben Gruber reports.
Vera Motyckova is undergoing a procedure to implant a new pacemaker designed to regulate her heart rhythms. But unlike conventional pacemakers which rely on wires to carry electricity into the heart from an exterior unit, this pacemaker, manufactured by US company Nanostim, is self-contained. Dr Petre Neuzil says the miniaturized device is designed to fit inside the heart itself. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. PETR NEUZIL, CARDIAC SURGEON, HOMOLKA HOSPITAL, SAYING: "The concept with leadless pacemaker is that you can avoid technical troubles with lead, you can avoid infection. And the third aspect for sure is the cosmetic aspect. You can consider ladies, nice body, who go swimming, so for them it is also very important to get this system." And the implantation procedure is far less invasive than conventional pacemaker surgery. Neuzil is using a catheter to guide the device through the femoral artery to the heart where it will be secured. Most pacemaker models are implanted just beneath the skin of the chest wall, producing a visible bump. But days after her procedure, Vera Motyckova says there's no such bump or scarring. She says she was conscious throughout the entire procedure and recalls being pleasantly surprised. (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) VERA MOTYCKOVA, NANOSTIM PACEMAKER RECIPIENT, SAYING: "I wouldn't even call it surgery. The doctors made me so comfortable that I forgot I was there to have a pacemaker implant. It was like tea time at five." The World Health Organisation says more than half a million people each year undergo pacemaker implantation to monitor and regulate their heart rhythm, It says it expects that number to grow. Nanostim believes that a successful round of clinical trials will lead to its certification in Europe and further on, approval by the FDA in the United States.