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MedWatch: New Pacemaker

A pacemaker essentially prevents a slow heartbeat.

They are not uncommon, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal for the patient.

Now, a new, much smaller option is available at Munson Medical Center, and a few patients are already seeing and feeling the many benefits.

Michelle Dunaway shows us how it works in this week’s MedWatch.

You would never know Bill Dursum is 81 years old. Nothing really slows him down, except for his heart.

"I had what they call AFib. My heart rate was all over the place,” says Bill.

His atrial fibrillation got so bad, his doctor said he needed a pacemaker.

"I’ve known people with pacemakers, and with the one the lead’s going into the heart, sometimes come loose, the scar and also infection. If that’s what we gotta do, let’s do it," says Bill.

He was scheduled for the procedure on a Wednesday morning in early December.

"Tuesday morning early, Dr. Varner called. He said, ‘Bill, I just got back from Florida, and I’ve been doing a procedure down there working on animals and cadavers.’ And he said, ‘You’re the perfect person we can do this new procedure on’," explains Bill.

The new procedure involves a pacemaker a fraction of the size of the traditional one.

"This new device is a whole new change in the thought process with how we pace patients. It’s implanted directly into the heart itself without a lead hanging out from the chest walls that attaches to an external battery pack that’s placed under the skin," explains Dr. John Varner.      

Brand new technology at Munson Medical Center, and Bill decided to give it a go.

"All Dr. Varner said is ‘you’re going to be the poster boy’,” says Bill.

The first major difference, besides the size, is the way this pacemaker is implanted, through a small incision in the groin.

"This will go from the groin all the way up to the heart,” says Dr. Varner.

While it is very new, doctors and patients are already seeing plenty of positives.

"The benefits of this device are decreased risk of infection, increased patient satisfaction with cosmetic appearance after the procedure and a decreased risk for further need of future surgical procedures," explains Dr. Varner.

 Bill couldn’t be happier with the results.

"One night in the hospital, and I was driving 2-3 days later. It’s amazing,” says Bill.

Dr. Varner says he hopes to give many more patients that same satisfaction.

"This device has no pocket, no external feature that even reminds a patient they have a pacemaker. The incision in the groin is minimal, the recovery time is minimal,” says Dr. Varner.