New tiny pacemaker reduces risks and improves lives on the coast

New tiny pacemaker reduces risks and improves lives on the coast

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A new type of pacemaker is making life easier for some heart patients on the Coast.

Imagine a pacemaker that's the that's not much bigger than a large capsule, about a tenth the size of traditional pacemakers.It's Medtronic's Transcatheter Pacing System now being used at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. The device helps patients like Diamondhead resident, 79-year-old Fairl Morrell.

His heart problems caught up with him last year. He stated, "A year ago my wife said you look like you're about to fall out and I told her I'm not feeling well." His wife had good intuition and felt that there was something wrong. Morrell was having a heart attack. He ended up with a triple bypass surgery.

Morrel's health improved, but he started having new problems several months later that led to fainting spells. He recalled, "I did pass out and by the time I'd hit the floor my wife would be there to pick me up."

Doctors told him he needed a pacemaker to restore normal heart rhythm.

Memorial Hospital Cardiologist, Dr. Antoine Rizk, MD, offered a new, less invasive option. "This device is inserted through the groin into the heart. It doesn't need to have surgical incision into the chest," he described. It doesn't require surgery because it is so small.

Dr. Rizk says that reduces short and long term risks. Because it's so tiny, doctors are able to thread it through the groin through an artery all the way to the heart muscle. There's also no wire or lead on the new design, which Doctor Rizk says is another plus.

"One of the problems with a traditional pacemaker long term is the lead longevity. Meaning those wires attached to it with time have wear and tear. They may get dislodged, or fractured and sometimes you have to extract them," Rizk said.

Pacemakers are commonly used in the elderly to carry electrical impulses to help improve heart rhythm. "It's typically those patients who are elderly, who are fatigued and short of breath, they may pass and have a low heart rate. When we restore their rhythms they feel better," said Dr. Rizk.

Morrell had the procedure in the cath lab and went home the same day. He said, "Every day I'm a little better.  I was climbing up and checking on my boat earlier today so I must be doing pretty good."

While the new pacing system was a good solution for Morrell, this new pacemaker is not for everyone. It's only used in patients who require a single chamber pacing system, meaning pacing in one heart chamber rather than two

Dr. Rizk says, "It paces the lower chamber only, not the upper, and so only about 20-25% of pacemaker patients are candidates for it because  they need single pacing, not dual pacing." However, with medical advances, Doctor Rizk believes it's just a matter of time before the Transcatheter Pacing System will be available for dual pacing. "It could be five years, ten years, fifteen years; but it's coming."

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