A SOUTHAMPTON firefighter today became the first person in the UK to have a Bluetooth heart monitor implanted in her chest which can be monitored remotely by doctors.

Sian Jones was in a car crash as a teenager and has experienced unexplained blackouts ever since - but thanks to the new device she will hopefully be able to understand more about why they occur.

During the life changing operation, a Bluetooth device just the size of a paperclip was injected under the 34 year old's skin.

Daily Echo: Totton's Sian Jones with the chipTotton's Sian Jones with the chip

The incredible device, developed by tech firm Medtronic, allows doctors to monitor her heartbeat remotely and also allow Miss Jones, a retained firefighter and carer from Totton, near Southampton, to see the data on an app on her phone.

The procedure, which takes less than ten minutes, was carried out by the cardiology team at University Hospital Southampton, Hants led by specialist nurse Joanne Acres.

The state-of-the-art LINQ II system has been for designed patients who need long-term monitoring because they suffer unexplained palpitations, fainting episodes or blackouts.

The device is paired to the patients’ mobile phone or tablet using Bluetooth and an app constantly records and shares second-by-second ECG data with their healthcare team, including any rhythm abnormality when it occurs.

Cardiologists will also be able to change settings on the device remotely, enabling them to monitor a specific area like a patient’s heartbeat at certain times of the day without having to bring them in to hospital.

Miss Jones has suffered from fainting and blackouts since the accident at the age of 18.

She broke her neck in the crash but has never known exactly what causes or triggers her episodes.

Daily Echo:

Miss Jones, who was accompanied at the hospital by her partner, Lucy O'Neill, 38, said: "The crash was very serious. I was told I was a millimetre away from being disabled or even dying from my injuries.

"I was left with metal plates in the front and back of my neck and I’ve also had these often-erratic episodes ever since – I can sometimes go a few months without it happening and then I will blackout multiple times.

“Hopefully this will help find out what is causing it as I can’t risk it happening to me when we are on a fire call.”

After the op, Miss Jones revealed she could feel the small device in her chest but not as much as she expected.

She said: "I can feel it but not as much as I thought I would. It's a bit tender and I imagine it will be sore for a few days.

"I hope the device will be able to pick up data when I get woozy.

"When I have passed out and they have done tests on me they haven't been able to pick anything up because, obviously, by the time I get to the doctors it is too late.

"The wooziness affects my normal life because sometimes I'll be getting out of the car, or I just go to move something and I suddenly have to stop.

"The worst one was when I was round a friend's house. I was sat down and went to stand up but I passed out completely on the floor.

"The monitor is incredible. I hope that now they will be able to find out what is causing my symptoms. That's all I want to know."

Daily Echo: The size of the monitor, pictured centreThe size of the monitor, pictured centre

Dr Paul Roberts, consultant cardiologist at UHS, says the new Bluetooth device will be ‘game-changing’.

He said: “We are one of the first in Europe to implant this pioneering device that will now allow us to see 24/7 what is happening on that ECG without the patient having to leave their home.

“It’s different to the Bluetooth we have on our earphones and speakers – BlueSync technology is low energy and a new and novel form which also has rigorous high-level cyber security measures in place.

“Once it’s implanted we pair it up in the same way you would pair up other devices, and all the patient needs to do is keep the app open in the background on their phone or tablet to allow the data to transfer.

"Until now, we have had to bring the patient into hospital and remove the data from the device, sometimes every month.

"We don’t need to do that anymore – we can see it instantly. This is particularly useful while we are in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing patients to stay at home.”

Dr Roberts continued: “At UHS we have a real reputation of being at the forefront with technology and are delighted to have access to innovative new products like this at such an early stage.

"That’s a great benefit to patients in Southampton and the wider region who, as a result of that ethos, get to access the newest tech available.

“It’s exciting to think we may be able to use this form of technology in other cardiac areas in the future, such as patients who have pacemakers and defibrillators.”