The first leadless pacemaker is implanted in a New York patient, without surgery. NY1’s health reporter Erin Billups takes a closer look at the groundbreaking new medical device and procedure.
Gregory Dobin was feeling consistent discomfort in his heart, he was also having trouble breathing, even walking was hard.
"Better? It’s not the word, better. Much better,” said Dobin.
Dobin is the first patient in the U.S. to have a leadless pacemaker, made by St. Jude Medical, implanted into his heart.
Initially, he was hesitant.
"I don't like to be the first one, I like to be all the time in the middle. But I'm happy that I did,” said Dobin.
The procedure was performed as part of a clinical trial at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“The catheter holds onto the device. We introduce it through the vein in the leg, go up into the heart and basically screw it into the heart muscle,” said Dr. Vivek Reddy, Mount Sinai Hospital’s electrophysiology director.
Once it's in a good position the device is released from the catheter.
Traditional pacemakers have wires or leads that have several functions.
"It detects intrinsic activity of the heart, what the heart is beating by itself, and at times when the heart is not beating by itself, the pacemaker will emit some electricity which is transmitted through the lead to the heart and causes the heart to beat,” said Dr. Reddy.
All things the leadless pacemaker does except it's all contained in a smaller, compact device.
Dobin's pacemaker was evaluated just a week after his procedure. He says already he's breathing easier and sees a difference with his pulse, which used to be around 40.
"In 60s. Not 41. Not in 40s. In 60s, when I saw this, I feel better already,” said Dobin.
There are several benefits to the leadless pacemaker, one being that it takes a fraction of the time to implant compared to the surgery required for a regular pacemaker.
"It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to do,” said Dr. Reddy. “A regular pacemaker doesn't take that long, it may take an hour to do.”
And no surgery means less chance of infection and less recovery time.
Still the leadless pacemaker is not for everyone, yet.
"The leadless pacemaker paces one chamber, the bottom chamber, the ventricle. And the issue is there are some patients that need pacing of above the top and the bottom chamber,” said Dr. Reddy.
It could be about two years before the leadless pacemaker receives FDA approval for widespread use.