By: Patrice Wendling Medscape
A fully implantable, bioabsorbable pacemaker has been developed that’s capable of sustaining heart rhythms in animal and human donor hearts before disappearing over 5 to 7 weeks. Temporary pacing devices are frequently used after cardiac surgery but rely on bulky external generators and transcutaneous pacing leads that run the risk of becoming infected or dislodged and can damage the heart when removed if they’re enveloped in fibrotic tissue. The experimental device is thin, powered without leads or batteries, and made of water-soluble, biocompatible materials, thereby bypassing many of the disadvantages of conventional temporary pacing devices, according to John A. Rogers, PhD, who led the device’s development and directs the Simpson Querrey Institute for Bioelectronics at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.
Shortly after Rogers joined Northwestern, cardiac electrophysiologist and Northwestern professor of medicine Rishi Arora, MD, reached out to discuss how they could leverage wireless electronics for patients needing temporary pacing. “It was a natural marriage,” Arora said in an interview. “Part of the reason to go into the heart was because the cardiology group here at Northwestern, especially on the electrophysiology side, has been very involved in translational research, and John also had a very strong collaboration before he came here with Igor Efimov, a giant in the field in terms of heart rhythm research.” Arora noted that the incidence of temporary pacing after cardiac surgery is at least 10% but can reach 20%. Current devices work well in most patients, but temporary pacing epicardial wires can cause complications and, typically, only work well for a few days after cardiac surgery. Clinically, though, several patients need postoperative pacing support for 1 to 2 weeks.