Heart patients get to breathe easier

KUALA LUMPUR: Heart patients often dread having a pacemaker implanted in their chests due to the size of the device and the surgery involved, but things are set to change in the next couple of years.

The National Heart Institute (IJN) has been quietly blazing the trail to come up with a cutting-edge pacemaker the size of a vitamin pill through its clinical trials.

The Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (Micra TPS), developed by medical equipment maker Medtronic, is one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker and does not require surgery to be implanted.

It is simply injected into the heart through a vein.

It has small tines that latch onto the heart and delivers electric impulses through an electrode at the tip, according to IJN interventional electrophysiology and implantable devices clinical director Dr Azlan Hussin.

“Unlike traditional pacemakers, the Micra TPS does not need surgical pockets under the skin, so some potential complications are eliminated along with visible signs of the device,” he said.

Patients can wear the Micra TPS and go about their daily business. The battery power is the same as that of traditional pacemakers, and will last for about eight years.

The device is designed to be left permanently in the heart.

“But if removal is deemed necessary, doctors can do it without surgery,” Dr Azlan told a press conference here yesterday.

The first-in-man trial procedure for the Micra TPS was done by IJN in 2014, and since then, over 200 patients with bradycardia (slow or irregular heart rhythm) have been fitted with the device at the hospital.

Dr Azlan also said 80 physicians from many other countries had come to IJN for training on implanting the device.

Another of IJN’s leading clinical trials involves the Attain Stability Quad lead, used by patients with weak hearts who are most prone to heart failure.

The lead resembles a thin piece of wire, which, when implanted into a vein in the heart, will protect against possibilities of sudden death due to weak heartbeats.

IJN has trained over 200 physicians across Asia-Pacific to use this lead.

But this is only the beginning, said Dr Azlan, who added that plans are afoot to develop a second-generation Micra TPS pacemaker that will last longer and has more features for patients.

“The results of our first clinical study will be presented in Boston in May, and from there we will see what to do.

“This is still under research, but all patients who have undergone the procedure to implant the Micra TPS are doing well,” he said.

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