Smallest pacemaker in the world is saving lives in Arizona

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Heart disease is a huge problem in the United States, with an estimated 630,000 people dying in the country every year from the problem.

But now, some help has arrived, in the form of a a tiny device that provides a life saving punch.

The Micra pacemaker is the smallest pacemaker in the world. It's a lot smaller than the traditional pacemaker, a lot less invasive, and has less complications. The best part is that the new technology is available at the Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix.

"My husband has a pacemaker, and his has wires," said Ruth Ann Elms. She was once told by a doctor she would be lucky to live past 50, after being diagnosed with a kidney disease. Now pushing 80, Elms began developing Bradycardia, and back in December, she became the first patient at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital to receive the Micra pacemaker.

Traditional pacemakers are the most common way to treat Bradycardia, and restore the heart's rhythm.

"Typically, the way traditional pacemakers are implanted, we make a small incision under the skin, and implant a small canister under the skin, and this wire would be threaded through the vein, all the way into the heart," said Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Gopi Cherukuri.

The Micra pacemaker does the same thing, but it is smaller and not visible, since it is inserted directly to the heart.

" There is a social and psychological aspect to having the canister visible," said Dr. Cherukuri. "The patients can feel it, they're constantly reminded of it. If you don't have a canister, you don't think about it."

"I never even knew anything was ever done. It was fantastic," said Elms. "I knew I had it, but no recovery. I just got up the next morning and had a cup of coffee!"

Not all heart patients are eligible to get the Micra pacemaker, and it is also more expensive than the traditional version. Talk to your doctor if you think you are a candidate.