Watching from Afar
Sophisticated remotely monitored pacemakers being implanted at Macquarie University Hospital are bringing extraordinary benefits to patients requiring a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator.
For patients requiring a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator, innovative technologies are making life much easier, and bringing outstanding medical benefits.
This innovation in, implantable cardiac devices mean that a patient’s heart rhythm can be monitored remotely, doing away with the need to visit a doctor for regular checks, or if unusual cardiac rhythms occur.
The remotely monitored pacemaker has a transmitter built into it. Because the pacemaker is automatic, it can do essential things like check the battery level, the lead integrity and the threshold settings. Importantly, it can record unusual rhythms.
The pacemaker works routinely by downloading all data from the past 24 hours to a database in Germany, by means of a remote monitoring device that contacts the pacemaker automatically and without the patient being aware of this occurring. It does this at 2am or a pre-programmed time, when the patient is asleep.
If there are abnormalities in the data, an alert is sent to the physician, who can then act accordingly. Alternatively, a physician can log onto the site at any point and retrieve patient data.
“The technology came about because wireless technologies have matured rapidly in recent years,” said Dr Peter Illes, a cardiologist at Macquarie University hospital who does the surgical implant of the pacemakers. “Remotely monitored pacemakers are now very sophisticated.
“ This uses the mobile phone network, rather than landline technology. It is some of the most sophisticated on the market and is also easier for the patient to manage. “
The system has innumerable benefits for patients and doctors. Most importantly, it enables proactive treatment. In the past, patients visited their doctors every six to 12 months to have the pacemaker reviewed. If problems arose between visits, they wouldn’t become evident until a patient had a clinical event or presented at hospital with serious symptoms.
The remote system enables a doctor to detect problems regarding the function of the pacemaker, such as loose leads. Problems can be caught before they present a threat to the patient.
“Another big area of advantage is in treating strokes,” said Dr Illes. “About fifteen per cent of strokes are caused by Atrial Fibrilliation (AF), a commonly occurring disturbance in the heart’s rhythm.
“This pacemaker picks up every incident of AF so that a physician can address this condition before a stroke occurs. In this sense, it has an effective diagnostic function.”
Overall, the technology gathers a huge amount of information on a patient’s heart activity: details of their day-to-day heart rates, heart rate variability and patient activity.
“The procedure to implant the remotely monitored pacemaker is no different to installing a conventional one,” explained Dr Illes. “For this reason, we are encouraging all patients who require this to consider a remotely monitored one.
“Everyone eligible for a pacemaker or a defibrillator can benefit immensely from this – especially defibrillator candidates, where appropriate physiological regulation of the heart rate is performed automatically.”