Daily Mail

Smart­phone? Now it’s my heart­phone!

A new hi-tech pace­maker means you can check up on it by click­ing on your mo­bile

- Health · Medicine · Southampton · Basingstoke

A NEW pace­maker for heart rhythm prob­lems sends alerts to the pa­tient and their hos­pi­tal us­ing Blue­tooth tech­nol­ogy. Rachael Hussey, 41, an ar­chi­tec­tural con­sul­tant from Bas­ingstoke, Hamp­shire, tried out the de­vice, as she tells CAROL DAVIS.


My mum was putting me to bed at the age of seven when, for the first time, my heart started rac­ing im­pos­si­bly fast. I was ter­ri­fied, yet the GP said it was in­di­ges­tion. When it hap­pened again two years later, he used the same ex­pla­na­tion — ‘wind on the chest’, as he called it.

From then on, I felt it at least once a week and came to ac­cept it as nor­mal. my heart would race and I’d feel as if I was about to faint, so I’d sit or lie down un­til it passed, about ten min­utes later. I kept go­ing back to the GP, only to be brushed off.

But one day when I was 16, I col­lapsed dur­ing an episode. It took me sev­eral hours to re­cover. my par­ents were now ob­vi­ously wor­ried and my mother found me a new doc­tor who im­me­di­ately re­ferred me to Southamp­ton Hos­pi­tal, a spe­cial­ist heart hos­pi­tal.

Tests showed my heart went into strange, fast rhythms sev­eral times a day, known as ar­rhyth­mia.

I was di­ag­nosed with Wolf­fParkin­son-White syn­drome — a con­gen­i­tal con­di­tion caused by an ex­tra elec­tri­cal con­nec­tion in the heart. The doc­tors tried to ‘burn out’ the ex­tra tis­sue, which was cre­at­ing the short cir­cuit, but this also dam­aged the atri­oven­tric­u­lar node — cells that con­trol elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity in the heart. SIG­nalS

were no longer be­ing trans­mit­ted to the lower cham­bers of my heart, so it was beat­ing too slowly. I was told I would need a pace­maker.

But even with the pace­maker, the prob­lems con­tin­ued: my heart no longer ‘ raced’, but ev­ery few weeks would beat so er­rat­i­cally I felt I was about to pass out.

Doc­tors didn’t un­der­stand why it was hap­pen­ing. They changed the pace­maker when I was at univer­sity, and again ten years ago.

Dur­ing my 30s, I had to go to hos­pi­tal five times with an er­ratic heart­beat. In the gym I felt my heart wouldn’t beat strongly enough to let me ex­er­cise — it felt weak and flut­tery. I was scared to swim alone, and when my hus­band, neil, was away, I’d stay with my mum rather than be on my own. It felt to­tally bleak.

around once a day, I’d feel my heart skip a beat. On June 18 this year my symp­toms be­came sig­nif­i­cantly worse and I thought I was about to col­lapse. I lay on the floor and just had time to call 999 and neil be­fore I blacked out.

I spent five days in hos­pi­tal where they dis­cov­ered that my pace­maker’s leads were send­ing faulty sig­nals ( the leads had de­graded) that my heart was beat­ing too fast when it was ac­tu­ally beat­ing too slowly.

I was re­ferred back to Southamp­ton Hos­pi­tal, where I saw John Paisey, a con­sul­tant car­di­ol­o­gist. He said I could have a new pace­maker called azure, the first to send in­for­ma­tion via Blue­tooth to your phone and the hos­pi­tal for mon­i­tor­ing.

I am one of the first pa­tients in the coun­try to have it. The op­er­a­tion was in July 6 this year, un­der lo­cal anaes­thetic and se­da­tion. af­ter down­load­ing the app, I just need to keep my phone on and within 3ft of me to re­ceive read­ings. I find it a great com­fort.

I haven’t had any dizzy episodes since: I fi­nally know what ‘ nor­mal’ feels like. I’ve been surf­ing and can ex­er­cise prop­erly. It’s amaz­ing.


John Paisey is a con­sul­tant car­di­ol­o­gist at Univer­sity hos­pi­tal southamp­ton nhs Foun­da­tion Trust and spire southamp­ton hos­pi­tal. HearT rhythm dis­or­ders or ar­rhyth­mias are com­mon. The most com­mon, atrial fib­ril­la­tion, af­fects 1.2 mil­lion Bri­tons and is caused by faulty elec­tri­cal sig­nals. a fast, ir­reg­u­lar heart­beat means blood is not be­ing pumped through the body prop­erly, so it can pool, form­ing clots and po­ten­tially caus­ing a stroke.

Pa­tients can also ex­pe­ri­ence pal­pi­ta­tions, dizzi­ness and fa­tigue.

We pre­scribe blood- thin­ning tablets to pre­vent clots and can also of­fer beta block­ers to slow the heart.

another op­tion is catheter ab­la­tion, burn­ing or freez­ing heart mus­cle to block the faulty sig­nals by cre­at­ing scar tis­sue around the area send­ing mes­sages.

If this doesn’t work, we can of­fer pa­tients a pace­maker, which de­tects when the heart misses a beat and sup­plies an elec­tri­cal im­pulse to make it beat prop­erly.

rachael’s ar­rhyth­mia was caused by Wolff-Parkin­son-White syn­drome, where there is an ex­tra elec­tri­cal con­nec­tion in the heart. ab­la­tion to burn out the tis­sue that cre­ated this ad­di­tional path­way caused dam­age, so she needed a pace­maker.

Tra­di­tion­ally we saw pa­tients ev­ery six to 12 months to take read­ings. more re­cently, we’ve given them a mon­i­tor that reads their pace­maker and sends sig­nals to the hos­pi­tal down the phone line, to be mon­i­tored re­motely.

But the lat­est Blue­tooth tech­nol­ogy means sig­nals from the pace­maker can be trans­mit­ted via an app on the pa­tient’s phone and at the hos­pi­tal, so any prob­lems are picked up much faster.

at the hos­pi­tal, the data will be looked at by phys­i­ol­o­gists who will pass on any­thing wor­ry­ing to car­di­ol­o­gists.

The azure pace­maker should last 14 years be­fore the bat­tery needs chang­ing.

The pro­ce­dure to im­plant it takes 30 to 60 min­utes un­der lo­cal anaes­thetic and se­da­tion.

I make a 2cm to 3cm in­ci­sion un­der the left of the pa­tient’s col­lar­bone, then cre­ate a pocket un­der the skin for the pace­maker, which will send pulses to the heart.

I insert a nee­dle into a vein that runs just un­der the col­lar­bone to the heart. Then us­ing a guidewire and a catheter (flex­i­ble tube), and X-ray guid­ance, I feed a lead into the bot­tom right cham­ber of the heart.

The lead has a tiny corkscrew on the end that screws into the heart wall to an­chor it and is at­tached at the other end to the bat­tery that will de­liver the im­pulses to keep the heart beat­ing prop­erly.

I fix the lead to the pace­maker it­self, and place it into the pocket un­der the col­lar­bone. The pa­tient usu­ally goes home that day.

The Blue­tooth pace­maker is ex­tremely ex­cit­ing tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing mon­i­tor­ing pa­tients more ef­fi­cient and ac­cu­rate.

The pro­ce­dure costs £8,000 to £10,000 pri­vately and £4,000 to the nhs.

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 ??  ?? Great com­fort: Rachael Hussey
Great com­fort: Rachael Hussey

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