The Evolution of the Pacemaker

There many types of inventions that have been created over the years to help save human lives. The pacemaker is an excellent example of this and one piece of technology that is only becoming more effective and less invasive to those who have and need one. 

General Use & History of the Pacemaker

The pacemaker is a clinical device that is essential in today’s field of cardiology, intensive care medicine, and cardiac surgery. The recipients of a pacemaker are usually those over the age of 60. However, the pacemaker can be one that can benefit any age group that might need it should they suffer from any type of heart disease or damage that has been done to the heart.

So when did the introduction of the humble pacemaker begin? Luigi Galvani, an Italian biologist, is said to be the first scientist to observe muscle contractions on the limbs of dead frogs by using electrical currents. This was back in the early 1780s where Galvani then published his findings, which scientists and physicians went on to utilize this knowledge and research. 

The first one to use it for its eventual intended use was Dr. Mark Cowley Lidwell. He applied an electrical current to help resuscitate newborns back in the 1920s. His work and results were also published, which paved the way for more use and development as time went on. 

The first model was patented in 1930 but remained unsuccessful, and therefore, the production of the artificial pacemaker ceased.

First Implantable Pacemaker and the Inherent Challenges

For external pacemakers, they were large and not even battery powered. Pacing leads were applied transcutaneously, but this often incurred side injuries such as infections and skin burns. A clinical success to Dr. Zoll’s pacemaker in 1952 paved for a breakthrough in pacemaker technology. 

The first implantable pacemaker, however, was developed in the late 1950s. Even though the implantable pacemakers offered built-in batteries, the infections and burns at the skin where leads came through were still an issue.

However, in the early 1960s, Dr. Victor Parsonett was able to create a technique called Transvenous Pacing. This meant that he could thread the lead of the pacemaker through a specific vein and reduce skin burns and infections; a technique still used today.

Advancements in Technology 

Thanks to advancements in technology, modern devices weigh around 30g in comparison to the first implantable pacemaker that weighed 180g. They’re now the size of matchbooks, and the longevity in battery means they’ll last for about ten years. There is also progress being made in remote technology to help monitor the pacemaker device in patients as well.

Considerable progress has been made with the pacemaker over a course of a few decades, which wouldn’t have been possible without the ability to create smaller and more effective devices that make it less invasive for the body to accept. Thanks to micromanufacturing, the future of pacemakers looks promising.

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