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First for Africa: Groote Schuur implants world’s smallest pacemaker

Tamsin Wort | Consultant Cardiologist & Electrophysiologist at Groote Schuur and UCT, Doctor Ashley Chin, explains how the world’s smallest pacemaker was implanted.

JOHANNESBURG - The Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town has become the first health facility in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia to implant the world's smallest pacemaker.

The Medtronic Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) is one-tenth the size of a typical pacemaker.

Doctor Ashley Chin, a consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at Groote Schuur and the University of Cape Town, says the device is very small compared to the conventional pacemaker.

"Our conventional pacemakers have decreased in size over the years, and really have stood the test of time."

He however says the problem with the conventional pacemaker is that over time there's about a four percent complication rate.

"A conventional pacemaker comprises of a generator, which is the size of a watch, and that's attached to a lead which is inserted into the heart. The problem is that over time the lead and the generator will develop complications over the medium to long-term."

Chin says the TPS doesn't have a lead.

"It's a tiny generator, the size of a small pencil, only about two centimetres long."

It also does not require a surgical incision to the chest, nor the creation of a pocket under the skin, which is required when implementing a typical pacemaker.

The TPS is inserted via a tiny groin insertion, where it can be implanted directly into the heart and be attached directly to the heart muscle.

"Therefore, theoretically, it has much lower risks in terms of complications and generator complications."

A Medtronic Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS). Picture: www.techreleased.com.

According to Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, heart disease and strokes are the second leading causes of death in the country, and an estimated 11 million South Africans live with hypertension.

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