SOUTHAMPTON heart experts have successfully implanted the world's smallest pacemaker in a patient.
In a UK-first operation, doctors at Southampton General Hospital fitted the device, which is slightly bigger than a paracetamol pill, directly into a patient's heart.
It was part of an exclusive study at the General with the revolutionary new technology set to make the pacemaker patient's lives much easier in the future.
Pacemakers are usually inserted into the skin via an incision in the chest and are connected to the heart via a lead which carries electrical signals to correct slow or irregular heartbeats.
But the smaller version, known as the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, is placed inside the wall of the heart by a catheter passed up through the groin and delivers electrical impulses from an electrode, removing the need for a lead.
Consultant cardiologist Prof John Morgan said: “While pacemakers have saved countless thousands of lives over the past seven decades since the first devices were implanted, one of the major drawbacks has been complications related to the pacing lead that is put in to deliver electrical impulses to the heart.
“Now we have pacemakers that are so small - not much larger than an antibiotic pill - they can be attached directly to the inside of the heart, all the problems related to the old-fashioned pacemaker lead are abolished.”
Prof Morgan, honorary chair in cardiac rhythm management at the University of Southampton, performed the procedure with Dr Paul Roberts as part of a clinical trial of the device at the General.
The device is one-tenth the size of a normal pacemaker and Prof Morgan added the launch of the study at the General was a “landmark moment”.
He said: “In addition to the advantages of the device's size and wireless technology, the procedure reduces the risk of infection and extended recovery time associated with traditional, more invasive surgical pacemaker implants.
“This a big step forward in patient treatment and a milestone for cardiac rhythm management in the UK.”