Medtronic and St. Judes Medical have developed miniaturized pacemakers that can be implanted in the heart through blood vessels via an incision in the thigh, reducing or eliminating the need for invasive surgery.
Doctors in Austria implanted the 24mm Medtronic device in a patient last week as part of a human trial. St. Jude Medical’s 41mm device has been approved for patients in Europe.
The manufacturers claim a battery life of 8-10 years when running at full stimulating capacity. The pacemakers sit inside the heart and do not require long electrodes. Small prongs on Medtronic’s device fasten it to heart tissue, and an electrode that touches the heart delivers electric pulses. The design reduces the amount of power required and eliminates a major source of device failure.