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VCU Health offers new, FDA-approved leadless pacemaker


By Leha Byrd
University Public Affairs

Friday, Feb. 17, 2017

At one point, Don Bayford was taking heart medication that made him so tired he struggled to stay awake when doing everyday tasks.

“The first time he took heart medication he almost fell asleep in his cereal bowl,” Melanie Bayford said of her husband.

Since May, Don Bayford has suffered from atrial fibrillation, a condition that makes the heart beat irregularlyCommonly referred to as a-fib, the ailment is characterized by a chaotic heartbeat that makes blood flow slow down or stagnate, and results in ventricles not pushing blood around the body efficiently. Nearly 1 million people worldwide are implanted with pacemakers, typically used to treat the disorder.

Bayford is next in line at VCU Health to receive a newly approved leadless pacemaker that does not require the use of wired leads or an incision. The Micra Transcatheter Pacing System was approved in April by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VCU Health is the only health system in central Virginia to have already completed procedures using the inch-long device, which is stealthier and less invasive than the traditional pacemaker.

VCU Health is the only health system to have already completed procedures using the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System. The inch-long device is less invasive than the traditional pacemaker.

Bayford, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, recently lost so much weight that he and his wife were fearful he couldn’t endure a traditional, single chamber pacemaker implanted under the skin near the collarbone. The new device is a godsend, they said.

The Bayfords had been traveling from Gloucester, Virginia to VCU Health’s Stony Point location for Don Bayford’s Parkinson’s disease treatments. From there, they were referred to the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center after Bayford’s a-fib diagnosis.

“All the staff has been very good, very friendly,” Don Bayford said. “I’m looking forward to feeling better, being more active and having more energy.”

Patients like Bayford, and those with limited vascular access due to kidney disease, a history of infections or prior surgery on the chest, like for breast cancer, are good candidates for the leadless pacemaker, said Kenneth Ellenbogen, M.D., VCU Health Pauley Heart Center’s chairman of the Division of Cardiology, and director of Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacing.

On Feb. 21, Ellenbogen and Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D., also from the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, are leading a discussion at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Kelly Education Center on occlusion of coronary arteries, as well as what symptoms to look for and what surgical and nonsurgical treatment options are available for people with a-fib. 

“A-fib is a common illness, but it can still be complicated to treat,” Ellenbogen said. “We want to make the public aware of all their treatment options and of the innovative, modern offerings we have at VCU Health.”

For some, a traditional pacemaker’s lead can cause infection in the neighboring tissue, requiring a medical procedure to replace the device.

“We have a long history of innovation for pacemakers and defibrillators,” Ellenbogen said. “And, we want to continue upgrading and offering those options to patients like Mr. Bayford.”

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 225 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Seventy-nine of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. The VCU Health brand represents the health sciences schools of VCU, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.