Friday, August 14, 2009

Wireless Home Monitoring of Pacemakers is Here

No, it's not a wireless pacemaker.

Rather, it's a pacemaker with a small radio transmitter inside that can talk to a base station that's attached to a phone line, much like many cordless phones we find at home. We call this "wireless telemetry." This same technology has been around for quite a while with our sister devices that treat both fast and slow heart rhythms: defibrillators. (Recall the recent firestorm of media attention that was created when researchers hacked the communication protocol while their antenae within 6 inches of the device.)

No doubt the new pacemakers with wireless telemetry will have the capability to upload information if pacing parameters like lead impedances readings (too low - there's an insulation break; too high - there's a lead fracture) and remaining battery voltage, as well as other cool tidbits of information that might be added to new sensors and the like. The hope, of course, is that through the use of this technology, the number of patient visits to device clinics (to assure proper functioning) will reduce the number of doctor visits a patient will have to make and therefore reduce costs.

But there is a potential downside to this technology. It is not lost on any engineer that the telemetry circuit for these pacemakers will use considerable battery energy to function. What we don't know is how much this added feature will reduce the device's longevity, especially if used frequestly. I would suspect we'll see slightly larger battery sizes to offset this higher energy demand of the device. Still, this feature will become the de facto standard for most new devices as we move from in-clinic pacemaker follow-up to home-based patient follow-up.

That is, of course, as long as no one wants to hack granny's pacemaker.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

not to insult you, but wireles pacemakers have been fda approved since 2001. I also read St Judes press release regarding thier "new" 1st wireless pacemaker. A little company called Biotronik has had it since 2001 and earlier outside of the USA.