World's smallest pacemaker used in western Sydney first

A big problem sometimes calls for a small solution, as John Alessi discovered.

The grandfather recently became the first person in western Sydney to receive the world’s smallest pacemaker – roughly the size of a large tablet.

Mr Alessi, 86, suffered a stroke last year and began to experience bradycardia, or a slow heartbeat.

The condition is sometimes noted in highly trained athletes, where it does not lead to any adverse effects.

In the average patient, however, it causes less oxygen to be pumped around the body, leading to dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and fainting.

Mr Alessi was advised he would need a pacemaker to regulate his heartbeat. The device monitors the heart and sends electrical pulses whenever the rhythm is too slow, to restore it to within a normal range of 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Norwest Private Hospital recommended Mr Alessi receive a tiny new pacemaker called a Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS). 

Unlike normal pacemakers, it attaches directly to the wall of the right ventricle without the need for wires. The revolutionary device was only approved for use in April 2016.

The miniature pacemaker does not require a surgical ‘pocket’ of skin, making surgery quicker and minimising the potential for complications. There are also no visible signs of the apparatus.

The Micra pacemaker

The Micra pacemaker

Mr Alessi’s daughter, Liana Zavisic, said the whole procedure went smoothly.

“It was a fantastic experience,” Ms Zavisic said.

“Less complications, blood thinners only had to be stopped a day before the procedure, not five days as with other pacemakers which can cause risk of further stroke. And he was able to move freely after the procedure.”

A Norwest Private Hospital spokesperson said patients generally experience instant results with pacemakers and are able to return home the following day.

Follow-up appointments with the cardiologist who performed the operation, Dr Ajita Kanthan, revealed Mr Alessi was doing well and the device was now regulating his heart 87 per cent of the time.

His successful treatment was the first Micra procedure in western Sydney.

Norwest Private Hospital also recently performed the 100th procedure in Australia, on a 76-year-old man from Greystanes.

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