| FOR the first time in Spain, surgeons have managed to fit a pacemaker with electrodes that slot inside the ventricular valves and force them to open and close at the correct rate and width.
Patients with cardiac disorders such as heart failure, heart murmurs, irregular heartbeat – although mainly a severe strain of the first of these – who had found conventional pacemakers did not work were fitted with a gadget that includes a power source and software to regulate its functioning, as well as three electrodes – one for each ventricular and one for the right-hand side auricular to ensure that they contract in a uniform and simultaneous manner.
This gadget is designed to be fitted in conjunction with either a pacemaker, or a miniature defibrillator which is often installed inside the hearts of patients with a severe reduction in cardiac function.
Normally, the generator would be fitted below the left-hand side collarbone and be inserted into the vein below it as far as the part of the heart in question, whereas traditional methods involve fitting it to the outside of the heart via the veins – a technique that fails to produce any benefits in 10 per cent of cases due to access problems, usually because the patient does not have the right vein structure to allow the installation of the gadget.
But the six patients at Badajoz's Infanta Cristina hospital who have had pacemakers inserted using the new technique are said to be responding well.
This new method involves introducing the left-hand ventricular electrode through the artery in the femur, pushing it right through to the right-hand side auricular and then the left cavities by puncturing the heart muscle wall that separates the two auricular chambers, before finally feeding it through to the vein below the collarbone to connect it to the generator.
Photograph: A chest X-ray of a patient with a pacemaker inserted using the new method, taken by the Government of the region of Extremadura, where the technique has been carried out for the first time in Spain at the Infanta Cristina Hospital in the regional capital city, Badajoz.