Conway Regional Offers the World's Smallest Pacemaker

CONWAY, Ark. (News release) - Conway Regional Health System today announced that it is one of the first health systems in central Arkansas to offer the world’s smallest pacemaker for patients with bradycardia.

Conway Regional is the only facility in Faulkner County to offer the pacemaker.

The Micra® Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) is a new type of heart device, approved for Medicare reimbursement that provides patients with the most advanced pacing technology at one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker. The system is manufactured by Medtronic.

The device offers multiple patient benefits in that it does not require cardiac wires (leads) or a surgical “pocket” under the skin to deliver a pacing therapy. Comparable in size to a large vitamin, it is small enough to be delivered through a catheter and implanted directly into the heart with small tines, providing a safe alternative to conventional pacemakers without the complications associated with leads. The Micra TPS is also designed to automatically adjust pacing therapy based on a patient’s activity levels.

Mae Stephens, 87, of Conway became the first person in Faulkner County to receive the miniature pacemaker on June 12. The pacemaker was implanted by Don Steely, MD, an interventional cardiologist with the Conway Regional Cardiovascular Clinic. 

“I couldn’t imagine it being that small,” said Stephens, recalling her reaction when Dr. Steely showed her a display model of the pacemaker.

Stephens’ daughter, Marilyn Bryson of Dardanelle, remembered Stephens’ weakness prior to the procedure. “If this improvement that I am seeing continues, this is wonderful.” Stephens’ son, Jeff, joked that “we have a rake with her name on it.” She left the hospital the day after the pacemaker was implanted.

The family praised the care provided by Dr. Steely, the nurses and staff in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit and Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.

“Some people think they have to go to Little Rock for these kinds of procedures,” said Stephens, “but we have had procedures in Little Rock that had to be redone here.” Dr. Steely had been monitoring her condition for years when testing confirmed that her heart condition could be improved with the pacemaker.

“I’m very pleased with the outcome of the first procedure. The new miniature pacemaker eliminates the need for surgery for my patient. Implanting the pacemaker using a catheter took about 30 minutes,” said Dr. Steely. “I am very grateful to Conway Regional for investing in this advanced technology for our patients. This is a positive step for the community.” He complimented the Cardiac Cath Lab staff, who also received additional training to assist with the procedure.

What is bradycardia?

Bradycardia is a condition characterized by a slow or irregular heart rhythm, usually fewer than 60 beats per minute. At this rate, the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body during normal activity or exercise, causing dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath or fainting spells. Pacemakers are the most common way to treat bradycardia to help restore the heart's normal rhythm and relieve symptoms by sending electrical impulses to the heart to increase the heart rate.

According to Medtronic, the new pacemaker eliminates potential complications by 60 percent. The device also has an average longevity of 12 years, compared to traditional pacemakers that last six to eight years.

The Micra TPS also incorporates a retrieval feature to enable retrieval of the device when possible; however, the device is designed to be left in the body. For patients who need more than one heart device, the miniaturized Micra TPS was designed with a unique feature that enables it to be permanently turned off so it can remain in the body and a new device can be implanted without risk of electrical interaction.

The Micra TPS is the first and only transcatheter pacing system to be approved for both 1.5 and 3 Tesla (T) full-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and is designed to allow patients to be followed by their physicians and send data remotely via the Medtronic CareLink® Network.

The Micra TPS was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April 2016 and has been granted Medicare reimbursement, allowing broad patient access to the novel pacing technology.

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