Millions of pacemakers have been successfully implanted in the past half century to regulate erratic heartbeats, but the electrical leads, which connect the device to the heart, complicate the surgery and increase infection risks. The heart's continuous and vigorous beating also creates strain on the leads and can damage them over time.
Now researchers seek to go wireless. In a new pacemaker called the Wireless Cardiac Stimulation (WiCS) system, a wireless electrode replaces one or more leads. California start-up EBR Systems, working with English technology-development firm Cambridge Consultants, recently announced their system was successfully implanted in 100 patients needing cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) during a series of human clinical trials in Europe.
In the system, a conventional pacemaker, implanted just below the collarbone in the left side of the chest, sends out a signal through a lead running into the heart's right side. The WiCS unit, implanted near the heart, wirelessly senses the pacemaker's pulse via this lead; it then sends an ultrasonic signal to the wireless electrode on the left side, which converts the sonic energy into electrical energy to pace the left ventricle synchronously with the right.
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