UNIVERSITY Hospital Southampton has become one of the first hospitals across the UK to offer the world's smallest pacemaker.

And a Karate champion was one of the first patients in UK to receive the pacemaker for treatment of atrioventricular (AV) block at the hospital.

The device is one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker.

The first procedure was performed by consultant cardiologists Dr Paul Roberts and Dr Arthur Yue on patient Mairi Kerin, a 37-year-old Karate champion and PhD student.

AV block is a type of heart block in which the electrical signals between the chambers of the heart (the atria and the ventricles) are impaired.

Pacemakers, the most common way to treat AV block, help restore the heart's normal rhythm and relieve symptoms by coordinating the electrical activity of the atria and the ventricles.

Daily Echo:

When this process – known as AV synchrony – is achieved, it is believed that patients are healthier and have decreased likelihood of pacemaker syndrome, improved quality of life, and increased blood flow from the left ventricle3. 

Identical in size and shape to the original Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) approved in 2015, the Micra AV device has several algorithms which detect cardiac movement.

“This is an amazing piece of technology with advanced sensors and algorithms that fit into something the size of a vitamin tablet," said Dr Paul Roberts, Consultant Cardiologist at Southampton General Hospital.

"What is clever about this latest generation of the Micra pacemaker is that it uses an accelerometer that listens to what is happening in another part of the heart and matches it to the pacing of the ventricle so the chambers of the patient’s heart beat in synchrony."

Daily Echo: Mairi. Pic: Sophie PeckMairi. Pic: Sophie Peck

Mairi. Pic: Sophie Peck

Comparable in size to a large vitamin, physicians at University Hospital Southampton have decided to use Medtronic’s Micra AV based on its ability to deliver therapy using a minimally invasive approach.

During the implant procedure, the device is inserted through a catheter and implanted directly into the heart with small tines. Because Micra AV does not require leads or a surgical "pocket" under the skin, potential complications are eliminated.

Karate champion Mairi said: “It was a huge shock to be diagnosed with a heart condition that I knew nothing about. When the doctors talked to me about a pacemaker my first thought was that my karate career would be over.

"It would be dangerous to have a device implanted just under my skin near my left shoulder as it could be easily be damaged or dislodged by a kick or punch to that area of my body during a match.

"To then learn that there was a pacemaker that could be implanted inside my heart was amazing and gives me hope that I can return to competitive karate soon."

Micra AV was CE marked in March 2020 and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January 2020.