This isn’t new news, but it’s not on the market yet. Scientists at the major pacemaker companies are working on a wireless pacemaker that they’ll just put in a vein and it’ll just drop into the right side of the heart. Most of you know that one of these pacemaker companies is responsible for me living in California right now, so I’m pretty interested in this stuff.
What are pacemakers?
First, pacemakers are tiny computers that make sure the heart doesn’t beat too slowly. Sometimes the signals that control heart beat “get stuck,” and don’t go where they’re supposed to go (like the ventricles, which are what pumps blood to the lungs and to the rest of the body).
The pacemaker senses the initial signal (from a place called the SA node) and if it doesn’t sense a signal in the ventricles when it’s supposed to, it’ll deliver a small shock to cause the ventricles to beat.
If this person doesn’t have a pacemaker, he/she would have a drop in blood pressure, causing fainting.
How are pacemakers put in the body now?
These days, the surgeon will thread wires called leads to the proper places in the heart and connect them to a pacemaker they put on the chest muscle. Because the pacemaker and leads are secured with thread (“sutures”) on to the muscle, the patient can’t move that muscle too much without pain or muscle tear.
I’ll have a video of my lecture for my students describing this process in March-April 2013.
Medtronics is the top producer of pacemakers. They released in a technology conference last year their effort in making a very small pacemaker that will be placed inside the heart, instead of the chest. If they are able to make it that small and without wires, it would be quite a breakthrough!
For more information:
- Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SMXBR_YFocs