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A pacemaker

Wireless system allows three-lead pacemaker insertion without open-chest surgery

Image credit: Steven Fruitsmaak

A 77-year-old man has become the first in the UK to have a three-lead pacemaker fitted via a hole in the heart using a new device, removing the need for open-chest surgery.

Stephen Metcalf underwent the procedure last month using the SupraCross RF System, at Southampton General Hospital.

“I am delighted that this procedure has meant that I have not had to undergo a major cardiac surgical operation and I’m already noticing a significant improvement in symptoms with less breathlessness and chest pain.”

Conventionally, heart-failure patients have the pacemaker placed in the chest through a small incision with leads passed through the veins to three areas - one in the right atrium, one in the right ventricle and one on the outside of the left ventricle.

Known as biventricular pacing, the three leads keep the right and left ventricles contracting together by sending small electrical impulses through the leads.

Traditional pacemakers are designed to treat slow heart rhythms and only regulate the right side of the heart.

However, some patients’ veins are not suitable to carry the pacing wire to the left ventricle and, prior to the development of the SupraCross System, the only alternative for them was for a surgeon to sew the lead on during major surgery.

Now, using radio frequency energy - the transmission of wireless electromagnetic signals - doctors can make a hole through the heart from the right atrium to the left and pass the third lead through a catheter where it is attached to the left ventricle.

“This technology represents a major step forward in providing more treatment options for patients that do not have suitable veins to place the left ventricular lead or have not responded to the conventional technique,” said Paul Roberts, a consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

“High-risk patients can now avoid major cardiothoracic surgery yet still receive all the benefits of biventricular pacing.”

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