Battery-free pacemaker technology shows promise

Engineering

A new form of pacemaker technology that is able to operate wirelessly without the need for an in-built battery has been developed.

Researchers from Rice University and the Texas Heart Institute have created a device that is smaller than a coin, which functions by harvesting energy wirelessly from radio frequency radiation transmitted by an external battery pack.

“A wireless, battery-free pacemaker has been developed that can be implanted directly into a patient's heart.“

Current pacemakers are implanted away from the heart, allowing surgeons to periodically replace their onboard batteries through minor surgery, with electrical signals transmitted to the organ using leads.

This can cause problems, with bleeding and infection often ensuing from the placement of the leads. Since the new technology does not need to have its battery replaced, it can be implanted directly into the heart, eliminating the need for leads completely.

The device has been successfully tested in a pig, with studies demonstrating its ability to tune the animal's heart rate from 100 to 172 beats per minute.

Dr Mehdi Razavi, director of clinical arrhythmia research and innovation at the Texas Heart Institute, said the technology could help to achieve the "triple crown" of treating cardiac arrhythmias, which he described as "external powering, wireless pacing and - far and away most importantly - cardiac defibrillation that is not only painless, but is actually imperceptible to the patient".

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