Say Hi To The World's Smallest Pacemaker & Goodbye To Surgery

Hearts are pretty amazing machines. But they often begin to beat irregularly. When that happens, a pacemaker can be implanted in your chest or abdomen to prompt your heart to beat at a normal rate using electrical pulses.

Did you know that the first pacemaker was implanted 55 years ago, in 1958, and failed after only 3 hours? We’ve come a long way since then. On Monday, a tiny pacemaker that Medtronic claim is the smallest in the world, a tenth the size of a conventional pacemaker, was implanted in Austria.

Medtronic Micra PacemakerMedtronic Micra Pacemaker
Pacemaker surgery normally requires making an incision above your heart, to create a "pocket" into which the surgeon can implant the heartbeat-regulating device. The device is  then connected to wires delivered through a vein near your collarbone, often leaving a visible bump on your chest. 

Pacemaker Chest LumpPacemaker Chest Lump

Not for long. Doctors can implant the latest Medtronic Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) into your heart through blood vessels, via an incision in your thigh. They use steerable, flexible tubes called catheters to push the pacemaker, which is the size of a large vitamin, through a large vein. The device sits inside your heart, delivering electric pulses through small prongs that touch your heart making it “leadless” and leaving no ugly bump on your chest wall. Pretty incredible stuff. 

Medtronic micra pacemaker: Implanting with a catheterMedtronic micra pacemaker: Implanting with a catheter

This pacemaker also lasts a lot longer than 3 hours. Device manufacturers say the batteries in the tiny pacemakers will last up to eight or 10 years when running at full-stimulating capacity. 

But don't all rush out and buy one just yet - it’s currently in clinical trials, along with a similar device called Nanostim manufactured by St. Jude’s that has already been approved for use in patients in Europe. 

For people with heart problems, the future is bright. Along with mobile medical apps like eMotion, it’s getting even easier to make sure your heart, and the hearts of those you love are hopeful, healthy and happy.