Southampton patient becomes first in UK to have innovative Bluetooth heart monitor implant paired to their phone

An innovative Bluetooth device paired to a mobile phone enabling doctors to monitor a person’s heart round the clock has been implanted in a patient in the UK for the first time ever this week, at University Hospital Southampton (UHS).

The cardiology team will also be among the first in Europe to offer the state-of-the-art LINQ II system to patients who need long-term monitoring because they suffer unexplained palpitations, fainting episodes or blackouts.

The device, which was developed by Medtronic and is the size of a small paperclip or one third the size of a AAA battery, is injected under the skin in the chest. The procedure is carried out in under ten minutes under local anaesthetic by specialist nurses (pictured below, credit www.solentnews.co.uk)

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The device is paired to the patients’ mobile phone or tablet using Bluetooth and an app constantly records and shares second-by-second ECG data with their healthcare team, including any rhythm abnormality when it occurs. It can also be used for stroke patients when the cause is unknown.

Cardiologists will also be able to change settings on the device remotely, enabling them to monitor a specific area like a patient’s fast heartbeat at certain times of the day without having to bring them in to hospital.

Retained firefighter Sian Jones, 34, underwent the ten-minute procedure this morning. She has been suffering unexplained blackouts since the age of 18, when she was involved in a serious car accident in Hampshire.

Sian, a carer from Totton, was a passenger in a car that hit a tree. She broke her neck in the crash and ever since has had episodes of fainting and blackouts but has never known the cause or trigger.

She said: “The crash was very serious. I was told I was a millimetre away from being disabled or even dying from my injuries. I was left with metal plates in the front and back of my neck and I’ve also had these often-erratic episodes ever since – I can sometimes go a few months without it happening and then suddenly I will blackout multiple times.

“Hopefully this will help find out what is causing it as I can’t risk it happening to me when we are on a fire call.”

Dr Paul Roberts, consultant cardiologist at UHS, said the new Bluetooth device would be ‘game-changing’ for patients and his team. 

He said: “We will be one of the first in Europe to implant this pioneering device that will now allow us to see 24/7 what is happening on that ECG without the patient having to leave their home.

“It’s different to the Bluetooth we have on our earphones and speakers – BlueSync technology is low energy and a new and novel form which also has rigorous high-level cyber security measures in place.

 “Once it’s implanted we pair it up in the same way you would pair up other devices, and all the patient needs to do is keep the app open in the background on their phone or tablet to allow the data to transfer.

He added: “Until now, we have had to bring the patient into hospital and remove the data from the device, sometimes every month. We don’t need to do that anymore – we can see it instantly. This is particularly useful while we are in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing patients to stay at home.”

Dr Roberts added: “At UHS we have a real reputation of being at the forefront with technology and are delighted to have access to innovative new products like this at such an early stage. That’s a great benefit to patients in Southampton and the wider region who, as a result of that ethos, get to access the newest tech available.

“It’s exciting to think that we may be able to use this form of technology in other cardiac areas in the future such as patients who have pacemakers and defibrillators.”

UHS currently implant several hundred of the devices a year, costing around £2,200 each, into cardiology and stroke patients.

Posted on Friday 25 September 2020