Tassie’s first tiny pacemaker a success

CHECK UP: Dr Stewart Healy checks in with Brian Bartlett, recipient of the world's smallest pacemaker, at Charles Clinic Heart Care. Picture: Supplied

CHECK UP: Dr Stewart Healy checks in with Brian Bartlett, recipient of the world's smallest pacemaker, at Charles Clinic Heart Care. Picture: Supplied

Deloraine man Brian Bartlett became the first Tasmanian to receive the world’s smallest pacemaker in early October.

The 70-year-old retiree travelled to Melbourne to have the pacemaker, the size of a large vitamin and one tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker, inserted. Tasmanian Melbourne-based cardiac electrophysiologist Dr Stewart Healy performed the operation.

Dr Healy, who consults in Launceston often, checked in with Mr Bartlett on Thursday at Charles Clinic Heart Care in Launceston to get an update on its performance. Mr Bartlett said he had the pacemaker installed due to his bradycardia, which is a slow or irregular heartbeat.

Left untreated, bradycardia can cause the heart to stop. 

Mr Bartlett said he was reaping the benefits of the device, which“kicks in” when his heart rhythm drops to a certain level.

Just weeks before his operation Mr Bartlett “hit the deck” when he passed out on a ferry on a bowls trip to New South Wales.

“I was just talking to a fellow bowler and bonk, next minute ... I literally hit the deck,” he said.

An avid bowler, Mr Bartlett said the unintrusive pacemaker meant he could get back to playing quickly. 

“If I’d had a normal pacemaker it would’ve been a lot longer, I was back to bowling within 10 days,” Mr Bartlett said. 

The tiny pacemaker, called the Medtronic Micra Trancatheter Pacing System, does not need a surgical pocket under the skin. Potential complications and visibles signs of the device are resultantly erased. 

The pacemaker

The pacemaker

“I don’t get dizzy, I used to get this funny feeling come over me two or three times a day,” he said. 

“You don’t feel anything [with the pacemaker].”

Mr Bartlett said he was “very happy” with the results. 

Dr Healy said the technology had only been around in Australia for three months. 

“The beauty is you don’t necessarily have any leads in your heart … normal pacemakers have leads down into your heart,” Dr Healy said. 

“The theoretical benefits of this device is that it lasts as long as a normal pacemaker … it reduces the risk of infection and people are up and walking around the next day without having limitations to their shoulder movements … they tend to bounce back very quickly,” Dr Healy said. 

Dr Healy said Mr Bartlett utilised his pacemaker about a third of the time, and was “collapsing” previously when his top and bottom heart chambers weren’t communicating. He said the way the Micra was put in the patient also differed from other pacemakers, as the tiny device was installed up through the groin. 

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