Getting “Back Up to Speed” with a New Kind of Pacemaker

By Meredith Whittemore

William Spillman has lived in Houston for more than 75 years.  While the hustle and bustle of the city has only gotten faster, Spillman’s heart hasn’t kept up.

“I hadn’t felt well in quite some time. I had no energy. I was tired and falling asleep at my desk,”said Spillman, who runs a corporate apparel company.

Tests showed he had bradycardia, or a slow heart rate, that wouldn’t rise even when exercising. His cardiologist recommended he get a pacemaker, but Spillman didn’t think a traditional pacemaker was right for him.

“I was concerned about the wires and potential complications. I live an active lifestyle. I run my own company. I didn’t want to be slowed down,” Spillman said.

That’s when he was referred to Sunil Reddy, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann–Texas Medical Center and assistant professor at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

“Technology has improved greatly even in the last few years. The latest pacemakers are smaller than ever, and some can be implanted by catheter, utilizing a vein in the leg, rather than having to make an incision in the chest, which decreases the risk of infection,” Dr. Reddy said.

Spillman opted for a small, leadless pacemaker called the Micra.

“The leadless pacemaker also eliminates possible complications that can arise from the wires running from a conventional pacemaker.  However, this type of pacemaker is only for patients who need a single chamber pacemaker, so it’s important people speak with their physician to see if it’s right for them,” Dr. Reddy said.

Spillman says he could feel an improvement almost immediately.

“It was unbelievable. I am amazed at what such a small device can do – it worked like a charm! I can’t praise Dr. Reddy, or his team, enough,” Spillman said.

Dr. Reddy says patients who receive the leadless pacemaker can usually go home the same day and have very few restrictions following the procedure.

“We do encourage patients to take it easy and refrain from running or heavy lifting for about a week, but that has more to do with not wanting to damage the incision site,” Dr. Reddy said.

“I felt so much better that I was able to go back to work just a few days after surgery!” Spillman said.

Physicians affiliated with the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute are able to treat a wide variety of heart rhythm issues, from bradycardia to atrial fibrillation. The multidisciplinary cardiovascular teams collaborate to deliver the  appropriate treatments for  heart disease or rhythym disorders. Learn more about the services offered at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute or schedule an appointment with an affiliated cardiologist near you.

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