Walter Reed surgeons develop improved leadless pacemaker
The research has been taking place at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following the approval of the device by the Food and Drug Administration in April of last year.
One of the top advancements of the device has been its ability to make direct contact with heart tissue as it does not require leads for the energy to pass through. The design is also smaller than traditional devices.
“The ‘Achilles heel’ of traditional pacemakers has always been the pacemaker leads, long metal wires coated with a silicon/plastic that are tunneled from the pacemaker under the left collarbone into the heart,” Navy Commander Dr. Matthew Needleman, a cardiologist at Walter Reed, said.
Another benefit of the leadless pacemaker is that it is less likely to cause problems for the patient. Many times the leads on traditional pacemakers fracture, dislodge or even get infected, which can travel to the entire heart. This requires that the device be removed from the patient, which can lead to their death.
“Leadless pacemakers are implanted directly into the right ventricle in the heart, solving a significant portion of pacemaker lead problems,” Needleman said. “Without leads, this pacemaker has no lead to break. In addition, there have been over 3,000 implants worldwide and no cases of the leadless pacemaker dislodging.”
Surgeons at Walter Reed have been using the leadless pacemakers in the Washington, D.C., area but expect to expand their use.
“We are looking at strategies to expand implantation of these devices in patients with difficult vascular access,” Needleman said.