In a first for the Gold Coast’s private health system, a leadless pacemaker the size of a vitamin tablet is shaving weeks off recovery times and revolutionising the way patients maintain a healthy heartbeat.
The new device, which is 90 percent smaller than traditional pacemakers, is implanted into the patient's heart via a vein in their leg - reducing post-surgical pain, lowering the risk of complications and potentially shortening surgery times.
An early adopter cardiologist from Gold Coast Private Hospital is promoting the benefits of this transcatheter pacing system, saying it significantly improves patient outcomes.
Cardiologist Kang-Teng Lim has implanted the leadless pacemaker in seven patients at the Gold Coast Private Hospital and all were discharged within a day of surgery and back to normal activities within one to two days.
Dr Lim said by comparison, the average hospital stay after the implantation of a traditional pacemaker was one to two days, with patients taking up to two weeks to make a full recovery.
He said the improved outcomes were due to the modern leadless pacemaker’s considerably smaller size, absence of a pacemaker lead and the minimally invasive surgery required to implant it.
“I’ve no doubt in my mind that this device and procedure will revolutionise treatment for patients with atrial fibrillation who may benefit from a pacemaker,” he said.
“The efficacy of the leadless pacemaker is essentially the same as the traditional device with perhaps superior battery longevity, but there are many additional benefits for patients including lower risk of complications such as infection, or haematoma, significantly less pain at the implant site and less long-term cardiovascular complications."
Dr Lim said because the new device was implanted completely within the heart, there were also cosmetic benefits which may be important in younger patients.
“Traditionally, pacemakers have been a lot more visible, with patients, their friends and families often being acutely aware of the device,” he said.
“With the substantial decrease in size, no leads and no need for a pocket under the skin to 'hold' the device, patients are less self-conscious because everyone – themselves included - is less aware of the device.
“It is clear there are significant benefits of the leadless pacemaker and in a lot of ways it really is a case of out of sight is out of mind.”
Pacemakers have been used since the 1960s for detecting irregular disturbances in a patient’s heartbeat and mimicking the heart’s natural rhythm with electrical pulses.