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UC San Diego Health is the first in San Diego to successfully implant the world’s first dual chamber and leadless pacemaker system to help treat people with abnormal heart rhythms. Holding the device and pictured above is Dr. Ulrika Birgersdotter-Green, cardiologist and director of pacemaker and ICD services at UC San Diego Health. Photo courtesy of Kyle Dykes/UC San Diego Health
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UC San Diego health installs advanced pacemaker

SAN DIEGO — The University of California San Diego on Monday said it is the first health system to successfully implant a new type of dual- chamber and leadless pacemaker system.

A pacemaker helps treat patients with irregular heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias, which can lead to palpitations, fainting and stroke.

UC San Diego Health said it implanted the pacemaker in the patient in February.

Traditional pacemakers use thin wires, known as leads, which conduct electrical signals inside a person’s heart and blood vessels. The leads are attached to a battery-powered generator implanted beneath the skin. The energy burst can cause the heart to beat more quickly, with a pacemaker; or it can stop dangerous, rapid heart rhythms.

“To have the option to use a leadless pacemaker system on both sides of the heart will allow us to treat more individuals currently living with heart arrhythmias,” said Dr. Ulrika Birgersdotter-Green, a cardiologist who also directs pacemaker and ICD services at UC San Diego Health.

“Leadless pacemakers are considered the future in the treatment of heart arrhythmias and have allowed many patients to live their lives with no visible evidence of a pacemaker or heart device,” Birgersdotter-Green said.

“This advancement for our patients needing cardiovascular care is the result of our extraordinary multidisciplinary, electrophysiology team at UC San Diego Health,” Birgersdotter-Green added.

According to UCSD, the pacemaker system can be removed or replaced at any time should a patient’s treatment requirements change.

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last July, the pacemaker system uses new communication technology and is a less invasive option for patients.

“The new system is comprised of two devices: one in the atrium, or top right heart chamber, and one in the ventricle, bottom right chamber,” Birgersdotter-Green said. “The two devices then communicate with one another through the heart’s natural circulatory system that controls the heartbeat.”

Almost 80% of patients who receive a pacemaker need a dual chamber option, according to UCSD. While such pacemakers have been the preferred option, they have historically only been available for people who require pacing on one side of the heart, UCSD said.

The new system is the size of an AAA battery and does not require a surgical “pocket” under the skin.

Instead, the system is delivered through a catheter and “implanted directly into the heart, making it a more minimally invasive approach for patients,” UCSD said.

The procedure is performed in the region’s “first hybrid, state-of- the-art operating room” at Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center at UC San Diego Health, UCSD said.

UCSD said that board-certified electrophysiologists perform “among the largest volumes of device implantations, heart ablations and laser lead extractions in the nation, offering advanced remote monitoring for devices using minimally invasive surgical techniques.”

Atrial fibrillation, the most common arrhythmia, will affect 12.1 million people in the United States by 2030, based on an estimation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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