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Keeping pace with nano technology

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A new pacemaker small enough to be inserted directly into the heart without surgery is being hailed as the latest advancement in the growing field of nano technology, which includes bionic eyes and pill cameras. The device, which unlike standard pacemakers that need to be implanted in the shoulder area and connected to the heart with lead wires, the new pacemaker is routed into the right ventricle via a catheter inserted into the femoral vein of the leg. Battery life for the unit is estimated at 10 years. At that time the pacemaker can be replaced with a new one inserted into the same chamber.

“In time, scar tissue growing over the implant secures it in place,” noted Dr. Joseph Levine, director of Arrhythmia and Pacemaker Center at St. Francis Hospital, Roslyn, NY, who feels that “getting rid of the lead was a good approach.” However, he was quick to add that the new pacemaker, known as “Nanostim,” is only suitable for patients that need “single-chamber pacing (about 20%-30% of patients). Those that require dual chamber pacing will still have to use traditional pacemakers for the time being.

Although trials for the new nano pacemaker are basically just beginning here in the US, with the first one planted in a patient in Manhattan by Dr. Vivek Reddy of Mount Sinai Hospital in February, the units have already been approved in Europe, where the average patient receiving them is said to be about 77-years old (with two thirds being men). Dr. Reddy has also conducted clinical trials for the device two years ago in hospitals located in Prague (Czech Republic) and Amsterdam (Holland).

Note: According to a report by WHO, “more than 4 million people around the world currently have pacemakers, with 700,000 new patients implanted with one every year.
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