Southampton heart experts use novel device to implant pacemaker

SupraCross RF System

Cardiac experts in Southampton have become the first in the UK to use a novel device to implant a three-lead pacemaker via a hole in the heart – removing the need for open chest surgery.

The procedure, which uses the SupraCross RF System, is designed for patients suffering from heart failure who require cardiac resynchronisation therapy to regulate their heart rhythm.

The condition, which affects around 900,000 people in the UK, occurs when the right and left lower chambers – or ventricles – of the heart do not pump together and, as a result, the left ventricle is not able to pump enough blood to the body.

This leads to a number of symptoms including shortness of breath, dry cough, swelling in the ankles and legs, weight gain, increased urination, fatigue and irregular heartbeat.

Conventionally, heart failure patients have the pacemaker placed in the chest through a small incision with leads passed through the veins to three areas – one in the right atrium, one in the right ventricle and one on the outside of the left ventricle.

Known as biventricular pacing, the three leads keep the right and left ventricles contracting together by sending small electrical impulses through the leads. Traditional pacemakers are designed to treat slow heart rhythms and only regulate the right side of the heart.

However, some patients’ veins aren’t suitable to carry the pacing wire to the left ventricle and, prior to the development of the SupraCross System, the only alternative for them was for a surgeon to sew the lead on during major surgery.

Now, using radio frequency (RF) energy – the transmission of wireless electromagnetic signals – doctors can make a hole through the heart from the right atrium to the left and pass the third lead through a thin tube known as a catheter where it is attached to the left ventricle.

“This technology represents a major step forward in providing more treatment options for patients that do not have suitable veins to place the left ventricular lead or have not responded to the conventional technique,” said Dr Paul Roberts, a consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

“High risk patients can now avoid major cardiothoracic surgery yet still receive all the benefits of biventricular pacing.”

Stephen Metcalf, 77, who was the first person to undergo the procedure - carried out at Southampton General Hospital last month - using the SupraCross System, said: “I am delighted that this procedure has meant that I have not had to undergo a major cardiac surgical operation and I’m already noticing a significant improvement in symptoms with less breathlessness and chest pain.”

Posted on Wednesday 11 January 2017