Patient one of first to be fitted with new pacemaker the size of a pen lid

A 76-year-old man has become one of the first people in the country to be fitted with a new pacemaker 10 times smaller than a standard device and with a battery that can last for up to 20 years.

Heart experts at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) took just 30 minutes to fit the Aveir VR leadless pacemaker to retired contract manager Graham Motteram.

The device, which is the size of a pen lid, is implanted directly into the heart’s right ventricle and delivers electrical pulses to correct slow or irregular heart rhythm.

The Aveir VR leadless pacemaker is the size of a pen lid (Abbott/UHS/PA)
The Aveir VR leadless pacemaker is the size of a pen lid (Abbott/UHS/PA)

More than 1.5 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with a heart rhythm condition which puts them at increased risk of a stroke, according to data published by the British Heart Foundation earlier this year.

Mr Motteram, from Romsey, Hampshire, was chosen for the implant after a routine check-up for diabetes highlighted that he had high blood pressure, and he was sent to the emergency department (ED) at UHS following an ECG.

The pensioner was identified as being suitable for the new device, which was fitted by consultant cardiologist Professor Paul Roberts and his team at UHS.

Mr Motteram said: “I feel very lucky to be the first patient in Southampton to be fitted with this new device, and I’m so grateful to Professor Roberts and the team – they have surely saved my life and looked after me so well before and after the procedure.

“I hope many more patients can benefit from this in the future.”

Prof Roberts said: “The Aveir ventricular leadless pacemaker represents a significant advancement in patient care with leadless pacemaker technology.

“The battery life of this device has the potential to last for more than 20 years in some patients.

“Furthermore, it is anticipated in the near future we will be able to implant a second device in the top chamber of the heart (atrium) in selected patients, which means that a larger group of patients may benefit from this technology.”

The surgical team at University Hospital Southampton who carried out the pacemaker implant (UHS/PA)
The surgical team at University Hospital Southampton who carried out the pacemaker implant (UHS/PA)

A UHS spokeswoman said: “The device, named the Aveir VR leadless pacemaker, is 10 times smaller than standard devices at 38mm and is used to correct slow heart rhythm, known as bradycardia.

“It is implanted directly into the heart’s right ventricle – a chamber in the heart that pumps blood low in oxygen to the lungs – via a catheter placed in the inferior vena cava (IVC), the body’s largest vein, located in the abdomen.

“Once it reaches the right ventricle, the device uses innovative technology to map the interior wall of the heart to assess correct positioning before being fixed in place. This helps to reduce the number of repositioning attempts which can damage the heart tissue.

“It is then anchored into place by turning the device’s unique spiral tip which also houses a small electrode for sensing and pacing stimulation.

“With each heartbeat, the device receives a message indicating whether the device sensed or paced and, if needed, delivers electrical pulses to correct the slow or irregular heart rhythm.”