Pill-size pacemaker saving lives at Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health mini pacemaker
The miniature pacemaker (left) is approximately one-tenth the size of the traditional device. (Nov. 18, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A medical device the size of a pill is now saving lives in West Michigan.

Retired dentist Herb Carpenter is Spectrum Health’s first patient to receive Medtronic’s newly miniaturized pacemaker, called the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System.

“I just wake up with a spark in my step the first thing in the morning. I get going. There’s a big difference, it’s mind-boggling,” he said.

Carpenter became a medical pioneer at age 87, after noticing he was tiring easily. His cardiologist gave him the bad news: he needed a new heart valve and a pacemaker.

In late September, he got both. Doctors at Spectrum Health inserted a pacemaker the shape of a vitamin pill through his vein, directly into his heart chamber. The new device is about one-tenth the size of a standard pacemaker.

The medical device is advanced in other ways as well. Old pacemakers involved a wire plugged into the wall of the heart that linked to a battery pack surgically placed under the patient’s skin near their left shoulder. The device sends out a pulse that keeps the heart beating.

But those wires can cause infections and can even become loose. The new wire-free device eliminates that issue.

“Now we don’t have to worry about leads anymore,” said Dr. Nagib Chalfoun of Spectrum Health.

Chalfoun says the device lasts 10 to 12 years – just as long as it’s predecessor, if not longer.

Since the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April, five patients in Michigan have received the device, which isn’t affected by full-body MRI scans.

“This has really brought back my energy. I’m happy,” exclaimed Carpenter, who was back on the golf course Friday.

Spectrum Health says the technology will have a major impact, as more than 500,000 people in the United States have pacemakers.


Spectrum Health on pill-sized pacemaker

**Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Dr. Nagib Chalfoun as Dr. Nagib Calfoun. The text has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.