Dr. Colleen Johnson

Tulane Medical Center is one of the first hospitals in the New Orleans area to offer the world’s smallest pacemaker for patients with bradycardia. The Micra® Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) is a new type of heart device that provides patients with the most advanced pacing technology at one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker. Dr. Colleen Johnson, an interventional cardiology specialist at the Tulane University Heart & Vascular Institute, recently performed the first procedure at Tulane Medical Center.

Bradycardia is a condition characterized by a slow or irregular heart rhythm, usually fewer than 60 beats per minute. At this rate, the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body during normal activity or exercise, causing dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath or fainting spells. Pacemakers are the most common way to treat bradycardia, by helping restore the heart's normal rhythm and relieve symptoms by sending electrical impulses to the heart to increase the heart rate.

Comparable in size to a large vitamin, physicians at Tulane Medical Center have elected to use the new Micra TPS because, unlike traditional pacemakers, the device does not require cardiac wires (leads) or a surgical “pocket” under the skin to deliver a pacing therapy. Instead, the device is small enough to be delivered through a catheter and implanted directly into the heart with small tines, providing a safe alternative to conventional pacemakers without the complications associated with leads – all while being cosmetically invisible. The Micra TPS is also designed to automatically adjust pacing therapy based on a patient’s activity levels.

“This wireless pacemaker can be implanted through a minimally invasive procedure where the tiny device is inserted into a blood vessel in the leg and affixed in the heart,” Dr. Johnson said. “The patient can usually go home the same day. This small pacemaker reduces the need for surgery, long hospital stays and complications that can occur from traditional pacemakers with wires and leads.” 

The Micra TPS also incorporates a retrieval feature to enable retrieval of the device when possible; however, the device is designed to be left in the body. For patients who need more than one heart device, the miniaturized Micra TPS was designed with a unique feature that enables it to be permanently turned off so it can remain in the body and a new device can be implanted without risk of electrical interaction.

The device is also the first and only transcatheter pacing system to be approved for both 1.5- and 3-Tesla full-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and it is designed to allow patients to be followed by their physicians and send data remotely.

“As physicians, we want to provide patients the best possible treatments with the least amount of risks and complications,” Dr. Johnson said. “Using a wireless pacemaker is just one example of Tulane’s commitment to providing cardiology patients with the latest and most advanced treatments.”

Tulane Medical Center is also the first hospital the area to offer HeartFlow® FFR-CT (or fractional flow reserve by computed tomography), and it provides leading-edge atrial fibrillation treatments such as hybrid ablation and the WATCHMAN procedure.