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Ontario County man gets world's smallest pacemaker

A 67-year old Ontario County man is one of the first local residents to have the world's smallest pacemaker implanted in his heart.

The device, called the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, is about the size of a vitamin capsule - roughly one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker.

UR Medicine electro-physiologist Dr. David Huang was part of the team that performed the procedure in November. 

He says even though traditional pacemakers work well, they come with wires that pass through a vein, and patients with poor vasculature may benefit from the much smaller device.

"It's certainly not the right thing for every patient who needs a pacemaker, but for patients who may have good reasons for getting a smaller pacemaker, this is something we've been waiting for, for years."

The small pacemaker also comes with an estimated price tag ( $10,000) that is about four times the cost of a conventional one, but Dr. Huang says overall costs should be lower with the new device, which requires a less complicated procedure and much shorter hospital stay.

The Micra TPS, made by Medtronic, is said to be the most advanced technology available for patients with bradycardia, a condition characterized by a slow or irregular heart rhythm.

The procedure to implant the device involves a small incision in the groin. The device is then inserted into the femoral vein that leads to the heart’s right ventricle chamber. Traditional pacemakers are implanted just under the skin below the collarbone.

The Micra TPS has a battery that lasts up to 12 years, and Dr. Huang says it can be retrieved, if necessary, when it’s time for a replacement.

"But they are small enough, and they don't take up much space inside the heart,” he said. “The heart can actually accommodate three or four of these, easily. The intended practice is that we will put in more of these devices once these devices reach end of life."

The Micra TPS was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in April.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.