A new experimental pacemaker has succeeded in converting a heartbeat’s energy into an electrical charge which recharges the device’s battery. Could this soon eliminate the need for regular surgeries?
Necessity is the mother of invention, and the most fundamental instrument in supporting human life certainly warrants innovating for.
We’re of course talking about the heart, a remarkable muscular organ which unfortunately exhibits faults or troublesome anomalies in millions of people. For around 600,000 individuals every year, the only feasible solution is to have a pacemaker surgery.
For those unfamiliar, these devices supplement a frail or excessive heart rate by using a small battery’s electrical pulse to bring it back to a safe and consistent rhythm. They typically fall under two categories: ‘traditional’ or ‘transvenous’.
The traditional type is installed under the skin near the left shoulder, where little wires carry its electrical charge directly to the heart. The latter is far smaller and has its battery directly integrated, meaning it can nest within a heart’s chamber and function at the source.
There are significant pros and cons for each. Traditional pacemakers are easier to access through an incision in the shoulder, for instance, but have a far higher likelihood of infections or dislodgement.
Transvenous devices, meanwhile, don’t present any complications with MRIs and are implementable without open chest surgery – as they’re injected through a vein in the leg.
Nonetheless, the overarching flaw that both types share is that their batteries need replacing regularly.
Every 6 to 15 years, those with traditional pacemakers require a new battery to be physically implanted, while leadless pacemakers are left to retire in the body and are succeeded by another functioning unit. It’s not as practical a practice as medical science would ideally like.