Micropacemaker implanted in less invasive area near heart

June 26 (UPI) — A minimally invasive micropacemaker system has been developed to be inserted in the pericardial sac surrounding the heart, which could make surgery to place the devices more easy and available to more patients.

Scientists and engineers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the University of Southern California created the micropacemaker, which is inserted through a single tiny incision, avoiding an invasive surgical procedure and complications from long pacemaker leads. Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology.

Their system was tested on six pigs, including the placement of a functioning device in one animal.

“Much about this device and its implantation is novel — starting with implanting an entire pacing system in the pericardial space in a minimally invasive fashion, which has never been done before,” said CHLA cardiologist Dr. Yaniv Bar-Cohen, a professor of clinical pediatrics and medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

Many patients with slow or irregular heartbeats are not considered good candidates for the traditional transvenous systems, which includes passing electrode wires through veins into the right ventricle or atrium of the heart. In those cases, lead failure can be a challenge, but leadless systems that can be located inside blood vessels can be dislodged and increase risk for infection.

In 2015, the investigators developed the first fully implantable micropacemaker designed for use in a fetus with complete heart block.

The new micropacemaker can help children, people born with congenital heart disease and adults for whom traditional pacemakers are less than ideal.

After several implantation tests, researchers developed a functional pacing system that achieves up to five days of pacing.

In the method, a flexible short lead serves as a spring-loaded hinge between the pacemaker body and a corkscrew electrode implanted at a 90-degree angle into the heart surface. The hinge returns perpendicularly after deployment.

This method paces the left ventricle, compared with the right one in most systems. Researchers see better benefits with the system on the left side.

The micropacer also uses natural fibrosis for support, which the researchers say is a better connective tissue than using a synthetic polymer that may degrade over time.

Researchers say they are currently looking for an industry partner to further develop the system.