Wednesday April 25, 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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Major Global Tech Firms Sign Cyber Security Tech Accord

34 global tech firms sign key accord against cyber attacks

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Global firms
Global Tech Firms. Pixabay

Top 34 global technology and securities firms, led by Microsoft and Facebook, have signed a “Cyber security Tech Accord” to defend people from malicious attacks by cyber criminals and nation-states.

The watershed agreement will prevent them help governments launch cyber attacks against innocent citizens and enterprises. It will also protect against tampering or exploitation of their products and services through every stage of technology development, design and distribution.

The agreement for Cyber security
Cyber security. Pixabay

“The devastating attacks from the past year demonstrate that cyber security is not just about what any single company can do but also about what we can all do together,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement on Tuesday.

The “Cybersecurity Tech Accord” is a public commitment among 34 global companies to protect and empower civilians online and to improve the security, stability and resilience of cyberspace.

“This tech sector accord will help us take a principled path towards more effective steps to work together and defend customers around the world,” added Smith who has been arguing for a “digital Geneva Convention” for years.

Also Read: McAfee unveils refreshed cyber security solutions portfolio

The companies made commitments in four areas — stronger defence, no offence, capacity building and collective action.

“The companies will do more to empower developers and the people and businesses that use their technology, helping them improve their capacity for protecting themselves,” said cybertechaccord.org.

This may include joint work on new security practices and new features the companies can deploy in their individual products and services.

The Tech Accord remains open to consideration of new private sector signatories, large or small and regardless of sector, who are trusted, have high cyber security standards and will adhere unreservedly to the Accord’s principles.

“The real world consequences of cyber threats have been repeatedly proven. As an industry, we must band together to fight cyber criminals and stop future attacks from causing even more damage,” said Kevin Simzer, Chief Operating Officer, Trend Micro.

Warning for Cyber attack.
Cyber Attacks. Pixabay

The victims of cyber attacks are businesses and organisations of all sizes, with economic losses expected to reach $8 trillion by 2022.

The cyber attacks in the past have caused small businesses to shutter their doors, hospitals to delay surgeries and governments to halt services, among other disruptions and safety risks.

“The Tech Accord will help to protect the integrity of the one trillion connected devices we expect to see deployed within the next 20 years,” said Carolyn Herzog, General Counsel, Arm.

Also Read: Parental Control Apps May Not Help in Shielding Teenagers From Cyber Threats

On Monday, Cyber security representatives from the US and Britain warned of Russian state-sponsored cyber-attacks that are targeting network infrastructure devices such as routers and firewalls, to compromise government and private sectors globally.

According to a US Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT), the Technical Alert provided information on the worldwide cyber exploitation by Russian state-sponsored cyber actors.  IANS