Smallest pacemaker being used on Hoosier heart patients

INDIANAPOLIS - Doctors have spent decades giving patients with heart conditions a steady heart rhythm with the help of pacemakers. Now a new, smaller version is being used that comes with several benefits.

Two patients at Franciscan Health recently went through the procedure. The first in the later part of the April, and the second earlier in May.

Dr. Robert Kinn, an electrophysiologist with Franciscan Health Heart Center and Indiana Heart Physicians, was the first to perform the procedure in Indiana with the Medtronic Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, the world's smallest pacemaker.

“This is the start of a big change for technology," said Dr. Kinn.

Pacemakers are used to treat bradycardia, a slow or irregular heart rhythm, by sending electrical impulses to the heart to increase the heart rate.

The new technology does face limitations as of now.

"Micra is intended only for patients who need a single chamber pacemaker and is completely self-contained," said Kinn.

However, most Americans in need of a pacemaker need the procedure done in two chambers.

Kinn said it's only a matter of time before the technology is there. “Like all research, they eventually figure a way out to do it. The engineers are awfully brilliant in these things.”

A Micra is roughly the size of a large vitamin capsule and is more than 93 percent smaller than conventional pacemakers, according to the manufacturer. It can adjust a patient's heart rate automatically by sensing changes in the body related to the activity level and adjusts accordingly.

“The leadless pacemaker is inserted directly into the heart through the femoral vein in the upper thigh, eliminating the need for chest incision or any other scarring,” said Dr. Kinn.

Complications with other types of pacemakers often include broken wires, blockage in veins and higher risk of infections.

Despite being a fraction of the size of traditional pacemakers, the Mirca has an estimated battery life of more than 12 years.