1. ITV Report

Pill-sized pacemaker a 'big step forward'

The pacemaker the size of a pill inside a model of the human heart. Photo: University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

A tiny pacemaker the size of a pill has been fitted inside the heart of a UK patient in a revolutionary new operation that medics are calling a "big step forward."

The miniature wireless device, the smallest in the world and used for the first time in the UK at at Southampton General Hospital, is one-tenth the size of conventional pacemaker models and is s implanted directly in the heart.

Usually pacemakers are inserted under the skin via a surgical incision in the chest and connected to the heart via a lead which carries electrical signals to correct slow or irregular heartbeats. However, the devices can require urgent replacement following damaged or dislodged wires.

The new device, known as the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, which is placed inside the wall of the heart by a catheter passed up through the groin, sends electrical impulses from an electrode, removing the need for a lead to transmit signals.

The revolutionary new type of pacemaker, pictured alongside a 50p piece. Credit: University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Professor John Morgan, consultant cardiologist, said: "While pacemakers have saved countless thousands of lives over the past seven decades since the first devices were implanted, one of the major drawbacks has been complications related to the pacing lead that is put in to deliver electrical impulses to the heart.

"Now we have pacemakers that are so small - not much larger than an antibiotic pill - they can be attached directly to the inside of the heart, all the problems related to the old-fashioned pacemaker lead are abolished."

Prof Morgan, who is also honorary chair in cardiac rhythm management at the University of Southampton, said the introduction of the device and launch of the study was a "landmark moment".

He added: "In addition to the advantages of the device's size and wireless technology, the procedure reduces the risk of infection and extended recovery time associated with traditional, more invasive surgical pacemaker implants.

"This a big step forward in patient treatment and a milestone for cardiac rhythm management in the UK."