A pacemaker is a battery-powered device about the size of a pocket watch that sends low-energy electrical impulses to “set a pace” so that your heart can maintain a regular heartbeat. More than 3 million people worldwide are estimated to have pacemakers, with about 600,000 more implanted annually.
Your heart has an electrical system that triggers your heart to beat. When your heart beats irregularly, it is called an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia can be harmless, a sign of other heart problems, or an immediate danger to your health.
At Wake Forest Baptist’s Heart and Vascular Center, our cardiac electrophysiologists, specialists in the heart’s electrical activities, offer both conventional and wireless pacemakers.
A wireless pacemaker contains its own batteries, eliminating the need to place wires inside your body.
Three types of wireless pacemaker include: a single-chamber model that enters the right ventricle; a double-chamber version that enters the right ventricle and atria; and a version for heart failure patients that enters the right ventricle, left ventricle and artery.
The latest single-chamber wireless pacemaker is the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System. The world’s smallest pacemaker—93 percent smaller than others—the Micra pacemaker is completely self-contained within the heart.
The major difference from traditional pacemakers is the absence of leads. Typically, one or two leads—or wires—carry the electrical charge through the vein to the heart to regulate the heartbeat. The Micra, on the other hand, has no leads.
Instead of connecting to a battery outside of the heart like traditional pacemakers, the Micra has all of its elements within a single tiny device, all located within the right ventricle. The Micra is implanted in the heart through a large sheath in the leg, near the hip. It is placed in the right ventricle, where 4 tiny hooks attach and hold on to the wall.
Once it is in the heart, the pacemaker monitors the heart rate and adjusts its activity based on the heart’s behavior.
Traditional pacemakers are implanted via the chest, just below the collarbone. They talk to the heart via wires that are placed within the vein and connect to the right ventricle.
Benefits of the Micra Pacemaker
Because there are no leads, chances of fractures, insulation breaches, venous thrombosis and obstruction, and tricuspid regurgitation are alleviated completely.
Tricuspid regurgitation is when there is a backflow of blood within the heart. This may occur with traditional pacemakers, because the lead prohibits the valve from closing all the way, which could lead to this blockage.
The Micra pacemaker minimizes tissue trauma and the risk of infection, hematoma and erosion as compared to traditional pacemakers.
Patients who receive the Micra pacemaker are also able to raise their arms above their head and below their back immediately after surgery, since there is no incision in the chest.
The differences between traditional pacemakers and the Micra are also visible. Because there is no need to place anything within the chest, there is no chest scar, bump or physical indication that a pacemaker has been implanted.
Micra Pacemaker at Wake Forest Baptist
Wake Forest Baptist is the only hospital in the region that offers the Micra pacemaker. Dr. Elijah Hamilton Beaty is certified to offer this treatment.