Smallest, leadless pacemaker surgically implanted in West Virginia patient

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Lena Cox is one busy senior citizen.

“I am an 83-year-old but I am not a couch potato,” exclaimed Cox. “I’m very involved in my church and community activities also. I have a husband that I am more or less his caregiver.”

However, a few months ago, she noticed that she no longer felt like herself.

“I was just so tired and that was unusual for me,” added Cox.

Cox has survived cancer twice and takes her health quite seriously.

“I had a cardio conversion which worked for two or three months,” stated Cox. “Then, my primary care physician didn’t like the way my heart sounded, so my doctor in Beckley started adjusting my medications.”

At that point, a pacemaker became her best option. Her next stop was in Charleston at CAMC with Dr. Chafik Assal.

“This is where we did the first procedure in West Virginia, said Dr. Assal. “This is our electropsyciology lab where we implant our cardiac devices.”

These new cardiac devices are wireless and leadless pacemakers and are less than one-tenth the size of traditional pacemakers.

“This new pacemaker is not designed to replace all pacemakers,” added Assal. “Nowadays, this technology is only available to replace patients who need a single wire or a single lead pacemaker.”

This made Mrs. Cox a perfect candidate for this brand new option. And, she became the first patient in West Virginia to have the procedure. In fact, it has only been done a few thousand times around the world.

“We are blessed to live in this time when these things are available to us,” said Cox.

Not only does this new device last longer, with a battery life of around twelve years, it’s cosmetically invisible to the patient after implantation. The device is delivered directly into the heart through a catheter inserted in the femoral vein. There is also less chance of infection. Its size is revolutionary. It weighs the same as a penny and is only the size of a large vitamin.

“This is the new pacemaker, so it is basically it has everything in it has the battery the circuit the tip of it here is equivalent to the tip of the wire the electricity comes from here and stimulates the heart muscle to make it beat. This is a wireless device so yes it does connect with a programmer wirelessly.

Dr. Assal thinks this is just the beginning of this space age technology.

“The industry is looking at in the future having apps on smartphones to tell the patient what their heart rate is, said Assal.

Lena Cox is looking to the future herself. And, can tell a big difference in her energy level.

“When I’m walking my little dog, I’m not as tired and that means a lot.” said Cox.

Cox came home just one day after her procedure with a new lease on life.

“God is not through with me yet,” exclaimed Cox.

The device is approved by multiple insurance carriers including medicare. It is also MRI safe.

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