World's smallest pacemaker packing a punch for A-fib patients

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) - It is the world's smallest pacemaker and it's wireless. Yale-New Haven Hospital is among the first hospitals to offer it.

Developed by Medtronic, the pacemaker about the size of a vitamin. The small barbs at the end of it hooks onto the heart wall, sending electrical impulses to treat atrial fibrillation, abnormal heart rhythms.

Dr. Eric Grubman explained, "There's a computer in there that monitors her heart very carefully. If it ever tries to go too slowly, it automatically speeds it up without her feeling it."

Dr. Grubman is a cardiologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital who implanted the miniature device that is now in Marie Altieri's heart.

"I was slowing down too much, " said Marie. One of her lower chambers was beating slower, leaving her fatigued, "I was just laying around all day. I didn't have ambition. I didn't have energy and that's not me."

She decided to take part in the continued access trial phase of this tiny pacemaker, still awaiting FDA approval.

It is as efficient as the traditional models but with major modifications.

Among them, eliminating the use of wires.

"The wires can break," said Dr. Grubman, "The wires can be a source of or a site that gets infected. And can be difficult to remove."

The battery can last at least 10 years.

And is actually placed inside the heart.

But it is not for everyone with irregular heartbeats.

Dr. Grubman said, "It can only pace the lower chambers of the heart, so if you need pacing support in the upper chambers of the heart, this wouldn't be the right device for you."

He adds that patients like Marie also avoid an incision in the chest, by not going with a conventional pacemaker.

"We can put it in through a vein in their upper leg and that travels all the way up to their heart. It turns out that vein dumps into their heart and so it puts us exactly where we want the pacemaker to be."

Restoring much of the energy, that Marie thought was fading.

"I was able to do what I needed to do before I had to think twice about this or that."

Dr. Grubman said there are other benefits to the smaller pacemaker, including lower infection rates and less complications such as a collapsed lung.

For more information, you can visit the Medtronic website here.

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