Revolutionary New Pacemaker Being Tested Could Help Thousands of Minnesotans

Updated: 12/20/2013 8:13 PM By: Beth McDonough

Some encouraging news for tens of thousands of Minnesotans who depend on a pacemaker to help their heart beat. 

Medtronic developed a revolutionary new pacemaker and it's in massive clinical trials this month. The first implants in people are taking place too.

It's called the Micra. It lives up to its name and is a mini computer, about the size of a piece of gum.

The small device could make a big difference in the way doctors, like David Benditt, a Cardiologist with the University of Minnesota, treat heart patients, "the beauty of it is it gets rid of wires that notoriously have been problems for pacemakers." Often times they could lead to painful infections.

With the Micra, those problems could be a thing of the past, "we're hoping with new technology, the Micra performs clinically the same as the existing pacemakers, but gives added benefits of faster recovery time, less infections and less complications."

Here's how it works:  the Micra pacemaker is inserted through a catheter, up the groin like a stent and injected right into the heart, to help it beat normally. There's no incision or device sitting on your chest, like a traditional pacemaker.  And with the Micra, no one would ever know you have one, "I can see how this new one could be better than existing technology, but we have to prove it," says Mackin.

The pacemakers are being tested on 780 patients worldwide, none locally.

Medtronic puts the price of the clinical trial at $20 million. 

While Medtronic says the pacemaker has great potential, it's also unproven, "as doctors, we always worry can it come loose and fly off somewhere since it's not gonna be attached to any other connection, if it flew off somewhere it could up in a hazardous place," according to Dr. Benditt.

Medtronic says the Micra lasts as long as traditional pacemakers, about 10-12 years. We expect to hear about initial results from the testing by this time next year.