Leadless pacemakers have lower risk of infection, doctors say

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If you have an irregular heartbeat, you may benefit from a new pacemaker device that doctors say has much fewer complications than traditional pacemakers.

A survivor of polio, Barbara Wade has atrial fibrillation, often known as AFib, and needed a pacemaker to monitor her heart rate. However, she had some complications during surgery when her doctor attempted to implant a pacemaker.

โ€œI cannot raise my arms above {my shoulders}. I have no deltoids,โ€ she explained. โ€œThey could not attach the regular pacemaker to my shoulders because of the vein structure.”

Her cardiologist, Dr. Jeffrey Senfield, recommended a new kind of pacemaker, which is smaller than traditional pacemakers and has no leads.

โ€œJust makes me feel a little more secure, that this will work if it is needed to work,” she said.

Dr. Senfield explained that pacemakers act as a constant monitor for heart rates, designed to keep a personโ€™s heart rate above 60 beats. Some can also act as defibrillators.

Because leadless pacemakers are inserted through the groin, the procedure is quick, he said, and doesn’t require an incision.

“We basically put it up against the heart muscle and just kind of inject it into the heart muscle itself,โ€ he said.

For the right patient, Dr. Senfield believes it has big benefits, such as reducing the risk of infection.

“We know that the pacemaker lead is the weakest part of the system and after having a lead for 20, 30 years, the risk of that lead not working is probably 30, 40, 50 percent,โ€ he explained. โ€œSo we don’t have to worry about that with this device because there’s no leads attached to it.”

He said many patients with pacemakers need 2 leads, but believes this technology could be an industry game changer.

โ€œI think we’re about to see a paradigm shift in the coming years and I think this new technology is probably here to stay,” he said.

Dr. Senfield says people who have low heart rates and who only need a pacemaker with one lead are some of the best candidates for a leadless pacemaker, such as people with end stage Renal Disease.

For more information about pacemakers, click here.

To submit a health question for our series, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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