NCH testing a cutting-edge miniature pacemaker no bigger than a grain of rice

Published: November 15, 2021 4:13 PM EST
Updated: November 15, 2021 6:01 PM EST

Keeping pace with technology, NCH is launching a research institute to test and deliver the latest medical advances. One of which is a new, and small, heart pacemaker.

For more than a half-century, pacemakers have been used to keep hearts in sync. Over the years, devices continue to get smaller and smaller. Now a Naples man is one of the first in the country to get a pacemaker so tiny, it could be mistaken for a grain of rice.

“We have the electrocardiogram which takes a look at the electrical current of the hearts,” said cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Dinesh Sharma.

The NCH catheterization lab is on the cutting edge of cardiac care. and as a part of its new research institution, doctors are participating in trials to get access to promising technology and techniques.

Sharma said, “and we think that’s going to help our patients and we want to offer to our community when it’s available.”

Tiny pacemaker being tested by NCH. (Credit: WINK News)

While it is only in the trial phase, the ultra-tiny pacemaker pictured above has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of patients.

The size of a grain of rice, it is implanted inside the heart using a catheter threaded through an artery in the leg. The small device doesn’t have leads connecting to a power source. Instead, it uses ultrasound to collect information needed to sync the heartbeat between chambers when two pacemakers are needed.

“The benefit is that some patients’ heart gets weak if they do not have pacing from both the chambers. And if, because of the anatomical reasons they are high risk considered for surgery,” said Sharma.

“I realized that I was sleeping a lot taking naps during the day, I was used to playing 18 holes of golf, and I could barely play nine, I felt exhausted and tired,” said Arthur Jenning’s whose heart was failing.

Jennings is NCH’s first patient to get this experimental leadless device. He is a month out from surgery.

“I started to recognize my old self again, I had energy. I didn’t want to sleep all the time. And I got rid of that fear that I had in my chest all the time that something terrible was going to happen,” said Jennings.

Smaller, self-contained devices are likely to become the standard of care and someday, the grain-sized pacemaker may be all a patient needs.

“That’s the plan for this trial that it will become eventually as the primary source of pacing,” said Sharma.

The pacemaker is still in the trial phase and is only an option for a very specific set of patients.