diagram of a chest with pacemaker insideA pacemaker is a small device whose main purpose is to prevent the heart from beating too slowly. The device stimulates the heart muscle when the heart rate is too slow or altogether absent.

Over time pacemakers have become smaller and more durable. Up until recently, they have always involved at least one wire that goes through the vein to the inside of the heart. An option for "leadless" pacemakers (i.e., without wires) is now available, and Inova Heart & Vascular Institute was the first facility in Northern Virginia to offer that option.

"Wireless" vs. Traditional Pacemaker

Particularly for patients with certain types of Atrial Fibrillation or ones with vascular access problems – stemming either from their anatomy or from a medical condition – leadless pacemakers offer a clear advance in technology. However, they are not appropriate in all cases. For instance, patients whose circumstances require dual chamber pacing will require use of a traditional pacemaker.

Micra leadless pacemaker

Micra is the first leadless pacemaker to obtain FDA approval. Manufactured by Medtronic, this device is completely self-contained within the heart. It is also 93% smaller than traditional pacemakers. As it is delivered via catheter directly into the right ventrical of the heart, there is no chest scar, no bump and results are showing fewer complications. It also offers a 12-year battery longevity.

Traditional pacemaker

Traditional pacemakers consists of a pulse generator attached to between one and three leads (wires) that are inserted within the heart. The pulse generator contains a battery and a microchip. The battery (most commonly lithium-iodide) typically has a life span of 6-10 years depending on its use. The leads are inserted under the skin via veins into the heart's upper chamber (atrium) or lower chamber (ventricle). The procedure takes 1-2 hours to complete.

Which Pacemaker is Right for Me?

A determination on the appropriate type of pacemaker is best explored with a cardiologist or electrophysiologist familiar with your medical history.

Need a doctor? Find an Inova Heart & Vascular Institute pacemaker specialist

Pacemaker vs. Defibrillator (ICD)

A pacemaker is not the same as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). They look similar, but the pacemaker is slightly smaller. An ICD is also a device that monitors and moderates your heart rate, and it uses batteries to send electric signals to a heart that’s beating too slow. Read more about ICDs.

Inova's History and Expertise

Innovation and technology development for cardiac devices is not new to Inova; we participated in the pre-market evaluation for FDA approval of leadless pacemaker technology and have a long track record working with industry on the development of new cardiac-related devices and medications through participation in numerous clinical trials.