Medtronic Micra 600x280

According to the American Heart Association, there are about 3 million pacemakers in use in the world with approximately 600,000 more implanted each year. Typical pacemakers are about the size of a large watch face or three stacked poker chips. They have two wire leads that are attached to the heart. Pacemakers save many lives, but the implant is sizable, and placed just below the collerbone, often has a visible lump.

European medical equipment manufacturing company Medtronics has just announced FDA clearance for the world’s smallest pacemaker, the Medtronic Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS). Smaller than a nickel and not much larger than many multi-vitamin pills, the Micra can be implanted via a catheter and doesn’t show. The company calls it “cosmetically invisible.”

The Micra doesn’t have wires but connects directly to the heart with small tines that send the electrical impulses that pace the heart through an electrode at the end of the device. You can work out safely with a Micra implant because it is able to adjust to the bodies activity, according to Medtronics. Patients with Micra implants are approved for both 1.5 and 3 Tesla (T) full-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which is extremely helpful if you need advanced diagnostic scanning. There is a method for removing Micras if necessary, but if it’s medically determine that another device with a different setting is required, the original unit can be remotely turned off and left in the body with no concern about signal interference. In the testing with 774 patients before FDA clearance, 99.2% had successful implantations. Medtronics found that 700 of 725 patients with the implant had no major complications.

Ever smaller electronics that replace bulkier traditional solutions and have equal or better performance are a huge advantage of Health Tech progress. From hearing aids to pacemakers, the functional benefits without bulk are easier to live with and less noticeable by others.