Surgeries & Interventions

The First Dissolvable Heart Monitor and Pacer

A team of Northwestern and George Washington scientists took a big step towards revolutionizing how patients are monitored and treated after major cardiac events, unveiling the first dissolvable cardiac mapping and pacing device.

The flexible, transparent, postage stamp-sized device attaches to the surface of the heart and uses sensors and actuators to assess cardiac activity, stream info to monitoring clinicians, and deliver treatments, before dissolving into the body “similar to absorbable stitches” after six weeks. 

That might sound like a dissolvable pacemaker, which would still be impressive, but initial testing shows that it’s capable of far more than current pacemakers. The device…

  • Can be placed on more areas of the heart’s surface
  • Spatiotemporally maps a range of electrical activity (EG and optically), showing which exact areas of the heart are (or aren’t) functioning.
  • Delivers electrical stimuli to targeted areas to quickly stop atrial fibrillation or AV blocks, and maps how this pacing affects different parts of the heart.
  • Uses a transparent design to ensure that the device won’t interfere with optical diagnostics/therapies and other image-guided procedures.

Plus, its bioresorbable design means that it doesn’t have to be extracted after the monitoring period, reducing costs and complications associated with removal procedures.

Noting that one-third of heart disease deaths in the U.S. result from complications that occur during the initial months after a major cardiac event, the researchers have big ambitions for their unique new device. 

  • As you might expect, they believe it could significantly improve short-term monitoring and treatments for patients recovering from MACE and cardiac surgeries, without requiring removal surgeries after their recovery is complete. 
  • They also see the technologies and methods they used supporting other breakthroughs, including the development of new therapies, guiding surgical procedures, and for other forms of postoperative monitoring.

The Takeaway
Although a lot more R&D and RCTs will be needed before clinical use is even a possibility, this device’s potential to address some of the biggest challenges with post-MACE care and current pacemaker technology seems to be worth waiting for. And given the related advances we’re seeing in pacemaker materials and dissolvability, we could be seeing a wave of similar innovations in the coming years.

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