Caption: The Advisa MRI pacemaker.
8 April 2010
A 53-year-old writer from Wix has become the first person in Essex and one of the first in the UK to be fitted with a new type of pacemaker.
Anne Potter was back home just five hours after it was fitted in a one-hour procedure at Colchester General Hospital where she had earlier been diagnosed with a condition called complete heart block.
The device, manufactured by US company Medtronic, became available in the UK on 17 March and is the first type of pacemaker that can be used by patients who need to undergo an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan.
Ms Potter has regular MRI scans because for the past three years she has been living with a diagnosis of neurosarcoidosis, and specialists at the Institute of Neurology, University College London, need to monitor her brain.
However, until now people with a pacemaker have been unable to have an MRI scan because the magnetic field interferes with the internal workings of the pacemaker, and may stop it working.
Dr Allan Harkness, Consultant Cardiologist, implanted the device in a procedure carried out under a local anaesthetic. He was supported by a team from InHealth, a private company which has supplied a cardiac catheterisation laboratory service at Colchester since 2006.
"A healthy heart beats between 60 and 80 times a minute but when Anne was sent to us by her GP, it was beating only 30 times a minute," he said.
"I knew about the Medtronic pacemaker and telephoned the company rep, who lives in Romford. She was able to bring one to the hospital that morning.
"The pacemaker was implanted in a similar manner to normal pacemakers, except the leads were slightly thicker and had to be screwed into place.
"As soon as the pacemaker was fitted, her heart rate increased to 60 beats a minute and she was able to go home later that day."
The full name of the lightweight pacemaker, which is about the size of a watch, is the Advisa DR MRI SureScan pacemaker but is normally shortened to the Advisa MRI pacemaker. Only a handful have been fitted in the UK so far.
It is believed that there are 250,000 people in the UK with a pacemaker for who until now an MRI scan has been impossible.
Ms Potter, who took up writing a year ago after a career as an IT project worker, said she first started to experience breathlessness in January.
"I eventually went to my GP and was sent straight to hospital where I had the impression that they thought I should be dead with such a slow heartbeat!" she said.
"I felt fine as soon as I got home but was advised to take it easy for a few days and will need to go back to Colchester General Hospital later this month to check that the pacemaker is performing as it should."
Jackie Churchman, regional operations manager for InHealth, said the company was very excited to have been involved in a ground-breaking development in pacemaker provision.
"We really appreciate the benefits that this type of pacemaker will offer to patients like Ms Potter because we regularly contend with the scanning constraints imposed by conventional pacemakers," she said. "We are therefore delighted to have supported the Trust in this procedure."