Dolores Van Vorst loves to cook. From cheesecake to the special
cookies for her grandchildren and great grandchildren, there is no recipe she
is not willing to tackle.
But late last year, the 79-year-old Salisbury resident could
tell that something was zapping her energy. She became tired easily and often
Van Vorst thought the symptoms might be due to the breast cancer
that she is being treated for at Wake
Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.
But the cause of her fatigue was neither cancer nor
chemotherapy. It was her heart.
Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist’s Heart and Vascular Center
diagnosed Van Vorst’s problem as bradycardia, an abnormally slow heart rate
that can cause fatigue, dizziness and fainting spells and lead to heart
failure. She was told that she would need a pacemaker to treat the condition,
but she worried that the pacemaker implanted in her chest
would be too big and interfere with her daily routine.
Van Vorst did not get a conventional pacemaker. Instead, she received a
miniature wireless pacemaker recently approved by the federal Food and Drug
new pacemaker, just an inch long, is called the Micra Transcatheter Pacing
System. About 93 percent smaller than traditional devices, it is the world’s
smallest pacemaker and the first “leadless” device of its type to be approved
for use in the United States.
are surgically implanted devices that monitor heart rate and generate
electrical impulses to treat irregular or slow heartbeats. Conventional
pacemakers are placed under the skin near the collarbone and connected to the
heart by lead wires running through a vein.
Micra’s smaller size, however, allows it to be implanted directly in the
heart’s right ventricle in a minimally invasive procedure. This eliminates the
lead wires and the problems associated with them, which can include infection
and interference with other medical treatments such as chemotherapy and
diagnostic tests such as MRIs.
heartbeat is increasingly common as people age, and it can be compounded by
medications used to treat other problems,” said Patrick
Whalen, M.D., director of cardiac electrophysiology at
Wake Forest Baptist. “The Micra and devices like it will change how we treat
patients with slow heartbeats.”
Forest Baptist is the only hospital in the region currently offering the Micra
cardiology patients are limited in terms of their quality of life because of
their illness,” said David
Zhao, M.D., chief of
cardiovascular medicine and executive director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Heart
and Vascular Center. “The new Micra pacemaker is an example of how advances in
technology give us another tool that can quickly benefit these patients.”
for Van Vorst, who was the first Wake Forest Baptist patient to receive the
device following its approval by the FDA, she said recently that her new
pacemaker works just fine. She hasn’t had a single episode of weakness or
dizziness, and she is able to receive standard treatment for her breast cancer.
It is also good news for her grandchildren and
great grandchildren. She is back in the kitchen, cooking up goodies for them.