Sunday July 22, 2018

Tiny Pacemakers Could Be Game Changers for Heart Patients

A pacemaker is a medical device which uses electrical impulses, delivered by electrodes contracting the heart muscles, to regulate the beating of the heart

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The tiny pacemakers are not right for all patients, but as the technology develops, more people will be able to benefit from the procedure.
The tiny pacemakers are not right for all patients, but as the technology develops, more people will be able to benefit from the procedure. Wikimedia Commons
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Tiny, new pacemakers are making headway around the world. One type, the Micra, is keeping 15,000 people’s hearts beating in 40 countries, according to manufacturer Medtronic. One of those people is Mary Lou Trejo, a senior citizen who lives in Ohio.

A healthy heart has its own pacemaker that establishes its rhythm, but people like Trejo need the help of an artificial device.

Trejo comes from a family with a history of heart disease. Her heart skipped beats, and she could feel it going out of rhythm. Trejo wanted to do something to advance heart health, so in 2014, she volunteered to participate in a clinical trial for the Micra pacemaker. The device is 24 millimetres long implanted, one-tenth the size of traditional pacemakers.

Traditional pacemakers

Most pacemakers rely on batteries placed under the skin, usually just below the collarbone. Sometimes patients get infections after the surgery or have difficulty healing from the incision.

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Traditional pacemakers use leads with electrodes on one end that are threaded through blood vessels to connect to the heart. There can be problems with the leads as well.

A healthy heart has its own pacemaker that establishes its rhythm, but people like Trejo need the help of an artificial device.
A healthy heart has its own pacemaker that establishes its rhythm, but people like Trejo need the help of an artificial device. Wikimedia Commons

Dr Ralph Augostini at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center says a tiny pacemaker like the Micra avoids all of these problems.

“The electrodes are part of the can, and therefore it eliminates the lead,” he said. There’s no incision in the chest to become infected and no chance of complications with the leads.

Small and self-contained

Augostini implanted Trejo’s pacemaker in 2014. He threaded the entire device through an artery in her leg up to her heart. The pacemaker has small, flexible tines that anchor it into the folds of the heart muscle. Once it’s in place, the doctor gives it a tug to make sure the pacemaker is stable before removing the catheter used to place it in the heart.

The Wexner Medical Center was one of the sites that participated in the Micra clinical trial. Since the Micra received FDA approval in 2016, Medtronic has been training more physicians on the procedure. A company spokesman told VOA that this device is becoming available at other centres across the U.S. and countries throughout the world.

Traditional pacemakers use leads with electrodes on one end that are threaded through blood vessels to connect to the heart.
Traditional pacemakers use leads with electrodes on one end that are threaded through blood vessels to connect to the heart. Wikimedia Commons

Dr John Hummell, a cardiologist at the Wexner Medical Center, has studied the effectiveness of this new generation of pacemakers.

“We don’t leave any wires behind and the pacemaker, the battery, the wire is all just a tiny little piece of metal sitting down in the heart,” he said. Medtronic said the results of the clinical trial showed a success rate of 99.6 percent.

Dr Richard Weachter, with the University of Missouri Health Care, says the leadless pacemakers’ complication rates are about half the rate of traditional pacemakers.

The battery lasts for 14 years and after that, Weachter said, doctors, can implant another one in the same chamber of the heart. They can repeat the procedure a third time if needed.

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The pacemaker activates only when necessary to keep the heart beating normally. Studies show that the Micra and other leadless pacemakers are safe and effective.

These tiny pacemakers are not right for all patients, but as the technology develops, more people will be able to benefit from the procedure. Four years after her implant, Trejo’s doctors say she is doing fine. (VOA)

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Diabetes? Living Near Woods May Cut Risk of Elevated Blood Sugar

The researchers hope that the findings will prompt doctors and other healthcare professionals to recommend patients to spend more time in greenery and natural areas

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Spending more time with nature also increased sleep duration and significantly reduced the levels of salivary cortisol -- a physiological marker of stress.
Spending more time with nature also increased sleep duration and significantly reduced the levels of salivary cortisol -- a physiological marker of stress. Pixabay

Feeling unwell? Instead of popping up a pill, sitting in the lap of nature can have various health benefits, says a study.

The findings showed that living near the nature or getting regular exposure to greenery may reduce the risk of a host of illnesses including Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, preterm birth and stress — and boost overall health.

“We often reach for medication when we’re unwell but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact,” said Andy Jones from Britain’s University of East Anglia (UEA).

“People living near greenery likely have more opportunities for physical activity and socializing. Meanwhile, exposure to a diverse variety of bacteria present in natural areas may also have benefits for the immune system and reduce inflammation,” said lead author, Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

Health-boosting properties of forest bathing can be explained by Phytoncides, which are organic compounds with antibacterial properties, released by trees, the researchers said.
Health-boosting properties of forest bathing can be explained by Phytoncides, which are organic compounds with antibacterial properties, released by trees, the researchers said. Pixabay

For the study, published in the journal Environmental Research, the team studied data from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people from 20 countries including the UK, the US, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan.

Spending more time with nature also increased sleep duration and significantly reduced the levels of salivary cortisol — a physiological marker of stress.

Also Read: Air Pollution Linked to 3.2 Million New Diabetes Cases in One Year

The researchers hope that the findings will prompt doctors and other healthcare professionals to recommend patients to spend more time in greenery and natural areas.

“We hope that this research will inspire people to get outside more and feel the health benefits for themselves. Hopefully our results will encourage policymakers to invest in the creation, regeneration, and maintenance of parks and greenery, particularly in urban residential areas,” Twohig-Bennett noted. (IANS)

One response to “Diabetes? Living Near Woods May Cut Risk of Elevated Blood Sugar”

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