UMC recently became the first hospital in Nevada to provide a patient with the world’s smallest pacemaker, opening the door to an innovative new procedure designed to improve patient outcomes.
Earlier this year, Dr. Arjun Gururaj performed the minimally invasive procedure at UMC to implant the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, which is roughly the size of a large vitamin. The wireless device is guided to the heart through the right femoral vein in the groin, requiring only a small incision.
Although traditional pacemakers have evolved in recent decades, Dr. Gururaj said every pacemaker since the 1960s has used wires, or leads, that connect a pacemaker generator to the heart. While pacemaker batteries can be swapped with relative ease, replacing the leads poses risks to the patient.
“Wires tend to crack, and they ultimately wear out after about 15 to 20 years. It is risky to take wires out that have been in place for even a few years,” he said. “The wires become solidified in the heart and the chest, and they require surgical removal, substantially increasing the risk of infection.”
Medtronic’s Micra system is completely wireless, eliminating the concerns associated with wires while representing a significant step forward for the health care community.
On average, pacemakers have a battery life of six to seven years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, Dr. Gururaj said the Micra system offers a 12-year battery life. Rather than replacing the battery, physicians can simply implant another Micra system in the heart while leaving the first pacemaker in place.
The system also serves to reduce the recovery time of patients following an implant procedure, Dr. Gururaj said.
“Theoretically, you can send the patient home the same day. It can literally become an outpatient procedure,” he said, although this is not possible in all cases.
The Micra system can be used to help a number of patients with irreversibly slow heart rates, he said.
While the Micra system is expected to have a significant impact on the medical community, Dr. Gururaj said the pacemaker is designed for patients who need one chamber of their heart paced, a relatively common condition. The system is not designed for patients requiring pacing for both chambers of the heart, but Dr. Gururaj said he expects to see new technology within the next fewyears that will provide similar wireless pacing systems for a broader range of patients.
Dr. Gururaj said he performed the procedure at UMC as a result of the hospital’s cardiology fellowship program and its continued dedication to providing community members with the highest level of care.
“Academic medical centers like UMC are best equipped to introduce this type of technology,” he said.
Photo: Provided by UMC – Micra Transcatheter Pacing System