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Leadless pacemaker a first for North Queensland

30 January 2018

When 76-year-old Mount Isa resident Hilary Petrie started inexplicably blacking out, he knew something wasn’t right.

“The first time it happened was a very hot day and I thought it might have been related to the heat,” Mr Petrie said.

“When it happened a second time I went to the Mount Isa Hospital before being transferred to Townsville for further testing.

“There, they diagnosed me with atrial fibrillation or an irregular heartbeat.

“My heartrate was dropping as low as 20 beats per minute meaning my heart wasn’t pumping enough blood to my body and causing me to blackout.”

Enter cardiac electrophysiologist Dr Kevin Ng who saw Mr Petrie as an ideal candidate for an innovative new ‘leadless’ cardiac pacemaker.

“The Townsville Hospital is the first facility outside of the south-east and just the third in Queensland to trial the Medtronic Micra® Transcatheter Pacing System, or leadless pacemaker,” Dr Ng said.

Dr Ng said the device was about one tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker and was implanted directly into the heart, reducing the risk of complications compared to traditional pacemakers.

“Pacemakers are used to treat bradyarrhythmias (slow heartbeats) by monitoring the heart and sending electrical impulses when required,” Dr Ng said.

“In traditional devices we thread the pacemaker leads into the heart through a vein near the shoulder.

“Once the leads have been placed correctly, we make a small cut into the skin on the patient’s chest or abdomen to house a small metal box with the pacemaker’s battery and generator. This box gets connected to the leads on the heart.

“The leadless pacemaker attaches directly to the heart wall via small prongs.

“Eventually the heart tissue will grow over the device, holding it in place.”

Dr Kevin Ng said Mr Petrie was an ideal candidate for the new procedure.

“Because Mr Petrie has a smaller frame, with very brittle and thinned skin, a traditional pacemaker would have been quite bulky on him with a higher risk of wound infection,” he said.

“The leadless pacemaker leaves no scarring or visible bumps on the patient’s chest and as there are no leads that track from beneath skin to the heart, the risks of infections are significantly reduced.”

Mr Petrie said he was feeling great following the procedure.

“I didn’t think I had any symptoms prior to the blackouts; I didn’t experience any dizziness or anything,” he said.

“However, looking back I was very tired and had no energy.

“Since getting the pacemaker I’m now able to be on my feet all day.

“My wife thinks I have more colour in my skin and I’m feeling good.”  

Mr Petrie extended his thanks to the staff at both the Townsville and Mount Isa hospitals.

“I want to offer my appreciation for the skilful work from all the health professionals who have been involved in my care,” he said.

“It’s been amazing to think how much work has gone in to getting to the bottom of this and making me feel better.”

Last updated: 30 January 2018