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Europe To Launch Tiny, Wireless Pacemaker

Update Date: Oct 15, 2013 02:21 PM EDT

The European Union has just approved the use of a tiny and wireless pacemaker. This pacemaker does not require invasive surgery to be implanted because it is small enough to be intravenously inserted directly in the heart. Even though the design is relatively new, experts find this type of technology to be a very "exciting development."

The new pacemaker was created by a start up company named Nanostim from the United States. It is smaller than the conventional pacemaker by 10 percent and is charged by a built in battery. The tiny pacemaker is implanted using a catheter that is inserted into the femoral vein by the groin. The built-in battery, which is much smaller than an AAA battery, can last between nine and 13 years. The procedure to get the device fitted takes only around half an hour. Since the procedure does not require surgery, patients will not have a scar. Even though this device has yet to receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), experts believe that it could change how conventional pacemakers are used.

Currently, patients who need pacemakers have to undergo surgery so that doctors can link the pacemakers and the associated wires to the body. Since conventional pacemakers require doctors to create a pocket for the pacemaker, there is a risk of infection. Furthermore, the wires are considered to be the part of the pacemaker that is most likely to fail. This new device would reduce both of these risks.

"For the past 40 years the therapeutic promise of leadless pacing has been discussed, but until now, no-one has been able to overcome the technical challenges," said Dr. Johannes Sperzel of the Kerchhoff Klinik in Bad Nauheim, Germany. Sperzel was one of the doctors involved in the trials. "This revolutionary technology offers patients a safe, minimally-invasive option for pacemaker delivery that eliminates leads and surgical pockets."

Even though this new device is exciting and promises better results for patients who need pacemakers, other experts are still cautious since the device is in its early stages. However, this is not the first type of device to go wireless. Many other devices, such as the wireless cardiac stimulation system, have taken the wireless route in order to improve success rates.

"This is a potentially exciting development but it's early days," Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said according to BBC News. "Before this leadless pacemaker becomes widely available, we need a better understanding of how long it will last, as well as how easy it is to replace if necessary. As our knowledge of this new pacemaker widens, so too will the expertise needed to fit this potentially exciting device."

Pacemakers, which are implanted in around 700,00 patients each year, are used to treat slow heart rates. The pacemaker works by tracking the heart and providing electrical stimulation whenever the heart starts to beat too slowly.

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