For the media

New technology for treating an irregular heart rate

By The Health News Team | June 13, 2024

Taking care of your heart is vital to your overall health. Good heart health can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and other major health problems.

Due to a variety of reasons, from advanced age to coronary artery disease, some people may experience a slower than normal heart rate, a condition known as bradycardia. A slow heart rate can cause fatigue, dizziness, fainting and a diminished quality of life.

Normally, a person with severe bradycardia that requires surgical intervention would receive a pacemaker — a small battery-powered device implanted in the chest that delivers electrical impulses via thin insulated wires. The wires, called cardiac leads, cause the heart muscle chambers to contract to help restore a normal heart rhythm.

However, in March, Sharp Memorial Hospital began using the world’s first dual-chamber leadless pacemaker system for people with irregular or slow heart rhythms. Abbott’s groundbreaking, FDA-approved Aveir DR offers a minimally invasive option to treat the nearly 80% of pacemaker recipients who require pacing in two chambers of the heart.

Roughly one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker and smaller than a AAA battery, the Aveir DR dual-chamber leadless pacing system consists of two tiny pacemakers inserted in the heart via a thin tube through a large vein in the thigh. One pacemaker is positioned in the right ventricle, and the other is positioned in the right atrium. The procedure to implant the Aveir DR typically takes less than an hour, and patients can go home the same day.

Leadless pacemakers: Ease of care and improved quality of life

Unlike traditional pacemakers, leadless devices are implanted in the heart, eliminating the need for cardiac leads. As a result, leadless pacemakers lead to reduced inflammation, scars and potential complications, such as wire insulation breaks, vein blockage and infection.

“Pacemaker leads have been the Achilles’ heel of permanent pacemaker systems since they have a limited lifespan and are prone to infection,” says Dr. Charles Athill, a cardiac electrophysiologist affiliated with Sharp Memorial. “The leadless dual-chamber pacemaker is a great option to treat abnormally slow heart rates.”

What’s more, most people who need a pacemaker require dual-chamber systems to regulate their heart’s rhythm, which requires an information exchange between the heart’s upper and lower chambers. The Aveir DR solves a significant engineering challenge by offering beat-to-beat communication using the patient’s own blood, rather than wires, to transmit electrical information between the leadless pacemakers. This technology ensures optimal heart rhythm management while using far less battery current than the inductive, radio frequency or Bluetooth communication used in traditional pacemakers.

Aveir DR leadless pacemakers are also made to be retrieved if a person’s treatment changes or if they need a replacement device in the future. Additionally, the device is designed to provide real-time analysis so that physicians can determine if it is placed properly, both before and during implantation.

“Although leadless pacemakers have been available for the last decade, they can only pace a single chamber, which limits their widespread use,” says Dr. Athill. “With this new, revolutionary dual-chamber pacemaker, more patients will have the benefit of leadless technology.”

Learn more about heart care at Sharp; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.