'This is the future': New matchstick-sized pacemaker lasts 25 years, needs no surgery

Originally manufactured in the US, the device was introduced in the Emirates just over a year ago

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Nandini Sircar

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Published: Tue 30 Jan 2024, 7:24 PM

Last updated: Tue 30 Jan 2024, 11:01 PM

A unique pacemaker that is the size of a matchstick is increasingly gaining popularity among the UAE’s medical community.

The pacemaker boasts a lifespan of up to 25 years, in contrast to traditional pacemakers which typically last only up to six to seven years.

The device is less than four centimetres long and weighs hardly 2 grams. It has advanced battery technology and deep miniaturisation of electronics, offering the opportunity to implant the whole pacemaker system into the ventricle.

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It’s worth noting that even newer pacemakers weigh not less than 20 grams.

Speaking to Khaleej Times during the ongoing Arab Health 2024, Dr Mohammed Magdy, Head of Department of EP (electrophysiological) at Al Qassimi Hospital said, “This is one of the latest devices from Abbott Medical. This device is actually very small. It's merely 38 millimetres and has a battery life of up to 25 years. What’s neat about it is that you can put the device without surgery and wires. This is implanted by putting the device through the vein in the leg, that goes right up to the heart, and we fix it there."

Dr Mohammed Magdy
Dr Mohammed Magdy

"Therefore, implementing such procedures significantly enhances the patient experience by reducing the frequency of procedures, and minimizing discomfort associated with surgery or wires.”

Technological advancements

Pacemakers have experienced significant technological advancements since their inception in the 1950s. These developments aim to minimise generator size, extend battery life, enhance overall quality, fine-tune pacing algorithms, and ensure the fidelity of leads.

He adds, “If at any point we want to retrieve the device, it also comes with a retrieval tool that can be hooked up and doctors can retrieve it. This is the future.”

150 physicians across the world have already been trained to do this procedure including medics based in France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Poland, among others.

Magdy added, “It launched in the UAE and the US at the same time. So, we are one of the leaders using this technology in the UAE. We have trained more than 150 physicians from Europe, including France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland, and lots of other countries.”

He explains the first procedure using this device, took place in Switzerland. Doctors from the UAE actively engaged and assisted their counterparts in Bern and Zurich.

“We flew there and helped the doctors in the nascent procedure there, and it was a success.”

Higher cost

Originally manufactured in the US, the device was introduced here just over a year ago. In the UAE, over 40 procedures have already been conducted with this device.

Magdy stressed, “This advanced alternative boasts extended durability of up to 25 years, allowing individuals in their 60s or 70s to rely on this device for their entire lifetime without replacement. Despite its higher cost, justified by its cutting-edge technology, the device is significantly safer and more convenient for patients. It costs approximately 10 times that of a regular pacemaker, which generally ranges around Dh25,000 (USD 7,000 to 6,500). Therefore, this advanced device costs approximately around Dh220,380 (USD 60,000 to 65,000).”

The doctor describes that implanting this device typically requires approximately one hour or slightly more. However, in the UAE with the specialised skills, the procedure now takes only about half an hour.

“The patient stays in the hospital for around 16 to 18 hours post-procedure and the patient is good to go home afterwards. Besides, it eliminates the need for the individual to manage a surgical wound and allows them to play sports and even exercise, soon after,” added Magdy.

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