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  1. ITV Report

Teesside woman 'first in the world' to have wireless pacemaker fitted

Dr Simon James, consultant cardiologist, Joan Smith and Dr Andrew Turley, consultant cardiologist. Photo: South Tees NHS
Dr Simon James, consultant cardiologist, Joan Smith and Dr Andrew Turley, consultant cardiologist. Credit: South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

A grandmother from Middlesbrough is the first woman in the world (outside of a clinical trial) to benefit from a new type of wireless pacemaker - that is just the size of a grain of rice.

71-year-old Joan Smith, from Marton, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy 21 years ago.

She says she has never let her illness get in the way of living life to the full, with husband Alan and her five grandchildren keeping her busy.

Following two unsuccessful attempts at fitting a conventional pacemaker, Joan was referred to consultant cardiologist Dr Simon James to find out more about the new wireless pacemaker.

I felt a lot fitter straight away.

I didn’t feel any fatigue at all and it had been fatigue that I had been feeling previously – not breathlessness like some people experience.

I knew it was a new type of pacemaker and a new procedure, but I trusted the doctors implicitly and knew they wouldn’t have sent me down that road if they didn’t think it was going to be beneficial.

I feel as if I’m a new woman!

I feel very privileged, very lucky.

– Joan Smith, the first person in the world to have the new 'grain of rice' pacemaker

For Joan, as soon as the device was switched on there was a huge change in the pumping of the heart.

Her blood pressure went up from the moment it was switched on so we felt confident she would begin to feel better quickly.

– Simon James, consultant cardiologist at The James Cook University Hospital
The new wireless pacemaker, compared to the size of a 20 pence piece Credit: South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

HOW DOES IT WORK?

  • The new tiny wireless pacemaker is implanted directly into the innermost layer of tissue that lines the left chamber of the heart, where it is most beneficial.
  • This can then perform the same job as a traditional CRT pacemaker - controlling abnormal heart rhythms using low-energy electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate - but without the need for wires and the risk of complications that come with them.