THURSDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists report positive
results in early testing of a wireless pacemaker that's placed in
the heart instead of being connected to it via wires from the upper
There are still many questions regarding the pacemaker, produced
by Nanostim Inc. It's only been implanted in a few dozen people who
were studied for a matter of months, limiting information about its
long-term use and safety. It's also not clear when the pacemaker
may be publicly available, and its cost is unknown. And the
existing version of the device won't work for most pacemaker
patients because it lacks some key features.
Still, a new company-funded study shows that "this is now a
possibility" that could reduce infections and the severity of
pacemaker surgery, said study author Dr. Vivek Reddy, director of
the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York
City. "This is going to be the future," he said.
Pacemakers zap the heart with low levels of electricity when the
heartbeat becomes too fast, too slow or too irregular. Some are
combined with defibrillators, which give the heart a major jolt
Currently, pacemakers include two components: a battery-powered
generator that produces the electrical "prompts" that the wires
deliver to the heart when needed, Reddy said. These wires can break
or become infected, he explained, making the idea of a wire-free
The new pacemaker is about the size of a AAA battery and
provides jolts to one chamber of the heart, Reddy said. Most people
with pacemakers require jolts to both chambers, so the pacemaker in
its current form wouldn't work for them.
In the new study, researchers implanted the pacemaker in 32
people for the first time through a puncture in the skin; in 10
patients, they had to reposition it. The researchers reported
positive results at up to three months. However, one patient died
of a stroke while convalescing after suffering a heart injury
during implantation and another had the pacemaker replaced with a
Why get a wire-free pacemaker? "For patients with heart
problems, this could potentially mean fewer infections related to
leads and less discomfort during the implant procedure," Reddy
said. And children who get pacemakers wouldn't face chest scarring,
Dr. Saman Nazarian, a cardiologist and assistant professor of
medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said the findings are promising
and "the new technology has enormous potential." He expects the
pacemaker "will likely be utilized for some select patients" after
Still, he said, the new device will probably be more expensive
than other pacemakers, and may pose special risks of its own.
Dr. Harish Doppalapudi, an assistant professor of medicine at
the University of Alabama at Birmingham, added that there are
unanswered questions regarding replacement of the new
"When the battery of the implanted leadless pacemaker is exhausted, a new implant is necessary, with all the potential risks associated with this," Doppalapudi said. "It is not known if it will be feasible to safely retrieve the old device. If the old device is left in place, it is not known what the long-term effects of this will be."
Study author Reddy has received grant funding from Nanostim, and
works for the company as a consultant. He also has received stock
options from the company.
The study was to be presented Wednesday at the Heart Rhythm
Society annual meeting in Denver. Findings presented at medical
meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a
For more about
pacemakers, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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