EVERETT — An 80-year-old Mukilteo man was having problems with the idle speed of his heart.
Sometimes it would beat too fast. When he was given medication to bring his heartbeat under control, it would respond by beating much too slowly.
“There was this back and forth, giving him medications and then backing off medications,” said Dr. Maheer Gandhavadi, medical director of electrophysiology at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and an Everett Clinic physician.
In August, a hospital medical team used a special catheter, or small tube, to route a tiny, newly developed pacemaker about an inch long through a vein in the groin and up into the middle wall of his heart.
At about one-tenth the size of a traditional one, it has been called the world’s smallest pacemaker.
The Mukilteo man was the first patient at the Everett hospital to get the new micro pacemaker.
“He’s doing well,” Gandhavadi said of the patient’s recovery. “He seems to be getting better every day.”
Recovery time is much quicker with the tiny pacemaker. Once the initial incision spot heals, patients usually get back to their normal activity in a couple days, he said.
The micro pacemaker is far different from traditional pacemakers, which have a lead or wire to stimulate the heart to beat with a normal rhythm.
The risk of infection with the tiny pacemaker is far less because it doesn’t have a wire going to the heart, Gandhavadi said.
It’s anchored to the heart with tiny tines. The pacemaker sends an electrical pulse to the heart whenever there’s an abnormal heart rhythm.
Because micro pacemakers are positioned in a wall of the heart, where the heart’s tissue is thicker, “the likelihood of damage to the heart is really minimal,” Gandhavadi said.
For now, the micro pacemaker is only used for patients whose heartbeat is too slow.
Other Providence patients may soon be getting their own tiny pacemakers, Gandhavadi said.
The micro pacemaker’s battery is expected to last about 12 years. If it begins to weaken, there’s space for another tiny pacemaker to be positioned nearby in the heart.
It only takes about an hour to complete the procedure to embed the pacemaker. It can be used in patients in their 40s, 50s and into their 80s, Gandhavadi said.
To help him prepare for the first procedure, Gandhavadi flew to Minneapolis, the headquarters of Medtronic, which makes the device. His training included work with simulators.
“A lot of the way that the pacemaker is put in is very similar to the tools and techniques we use for a lot of other heart procedures,” Gandhavadi said.
The new device was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in April 2016.
It had been tested on 725 patients in 56 medical centers, according to a report published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
It has been approved for Medicare reimbursement.
“I think it’s a great new alternative for patients and really a step forward in the way we care for patients who need pacemakers,” Gandhavadi said.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.