February 3, 2019 – On December 6, 2019, Southeast Georgia Health
System became the only hospital between Savannah and Jacksonville to offer
heart patients the world’s smallest pacemaker. Assisted by the Health
System’s Heart Catheter team, cardiologist
Mark T. Watkins, M.D., FACC, successfully implanted the new device in two patients. The minimally
invasive procedures each took less than 20 minutes.
Both patients suffer from bradycardia, a condition causing low or irregular
heart rhythms. Bradycardia can create dizziness, fatigue, shortness of
breath or fainting spells, especially during physical activity. The pacemaker’s
electrical impulses or “pacing therapy” relieves these symptoms
by restoring the heart’s normal rhythm.
The new pacemaker, known as the Micra® Transcatheter Pacing System
(PTS) is unique for several reasons. About the size of a large vitamin,
it is one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker. Weighing little more
than a penny, the Micra does not require cardiac wires (leads) or a surgical
“pocket” under the skin to deliver electrical impulses. The
device automatically adjusts pacing therapy based on each patient’s
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Micra pacemaker in 2016.
It is also approved for Medicare reimbursement.
Watkins and cardiologist
Mitchell T. Jones, M.D., Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus medical staff members,
received specialized training in device implantation and use.
“The Micra pacemaker is a milestone for our heart patients who now
have access to this technology close to home. I’m pleased that we
can improve heart function and quality of life for bradycardia patients
in a way that’s unobtrusive and offers lower risk than what was
available with a traditional pacemaker,” says Watkins.
According to Lance Simpson, a senior clinical specialist with Medtronic,
Micra’s manufacturer, this is currently the only leadless pacemaker
available. Simpson feels the technology offers important advantages over
regular pacemakers. “First, the patients have no visible or physical
reminders of the pacemaker. More importantly, the implant success rate
with Micra is nearly 100 percent. And patients implanted with this device
experience 63 percent fewer complications than they would with a traditional
The tiny device is implanted into the patient’s heart through a catheter
inserted into the femoral vein. “There are fewer potential complications
with this device because it does not use lead wires,” Watkins says,
adding, “It is a permanent pacemaker, but should it need removal
or replacement, it can be permanently shut down and a new device implanted
without any risk of electrical interference.”
Patients implanted with the Micra may safely undergo full-body magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) and TSA airport screenings.
From his perspective as a cardiologist, Watkins is especially enthusiastic
about the device’s ability to track heart health. “The device
sends data to the Medtronic CareLink Network, which allows me to follow
the patient’s condition via remote monitoring. Patients only need
a ‘device check’ once a year in my office.”
To schedule a consultation with Watkins, call 912-264-0760. To schedule
a consultation with Jones, call 912-264-1520.