A healthy heart is a pumping machine. But when it’s not working properly, it can slow you down. Our science can help.

Our work on heart health innovation will never stop

Dec 15 2017

Your heart looks nothing like an emoji. It's not bright red and shiny. It doesn't have two humps. And it does much more than sparkle and cover the front of Valentines Day cards.

Your heart is a muscle — about the size of your fist — that works hard to move blood around your body to provide you with oxygen and nutrients. The blood flow also carries away waste.

When your heart is healthy, it is one mean, lean, pumping machine. But when your heart is not working properly, it can slow you down and harm your health. That's where science can help. Here's how.

Drumming the right beat

If a heartbeat is too slow or too fast, a doctor may recommend a pacemaker, a small battery-operated device that helps your heat beat in a regular rhythm, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). It helps improve heart health and enables people with abnormal heartbeats to live normal lives. Here's a rundown of how a pacemaker works, as explained by the AHA:

  • A pacemaker consists of wires and the small generator, which runs on a battery.
  • A surgeon implants the generator under skin through a small incision.
  • The wires, or leads, connect the generator to the heart.
  • The generator sends electrical impulses through the wires to stimulate your heart to beat.
  • The impulses are timed to flow at regular intervals.

Early innovation

The pacemaker was invented by happy accident.

According to The Washington Post, Wilson Greatbatch, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo, was building equipment to monitor heart sounds back in 1956. He mistakenly placed a powerful transistor into an instrument, and the combination produced an electrical pulse similar to the rhythm of a human heart. Greatbatch realized the device could help the human heart beat and — eureka! — the first pacemaker.

Today's pacemaker progress

Pacemakers have come a long way since Greatbatch's discovery. Over the years, scientific innovation has allowed the medical device to become smaller and smarter.

Abbott's breakthrough pacemaker, for example, called the Assurity MRI™ pacemaker, is now the world's smallest, longest-lasting, wireless MRI-compatible pacemaker.

The Assurity MRI pacemaker was recently approved for magnetic resonance-conditional labeling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The groundbreaking pacemaker includes wireless remote monitoring that allows doctors to access the user's diagnostic data and daily device measurements. This information helps doctors monitor and track a person's heart.

Stronger with stents

A stent is a small tube inserted in an artery. Stents are generally made of metal mesh or sometimes fabric. Fabric stents, called stent grafts, are usually inserted in large arteries. If you have a weak artery, a doctor may place a stent inside to improve blood flow and stop the weakened arteries from bursting.

Think of scaffolding that helps support a building or bridge that's undergoing construction or repair. Like scaffolding, stents help keep weak arteries from falling down, and they strengthen the structure of your heart.

Cutting edge advancements have been made around stents in recent years. Abbott's XIENCE Everolimus Eluting Coronary Stent System, for example, provides mechanical support to a person's artery while a drug called everolimus is slowly released into the artery wall around the stent. The release of everolimus helps limit the overgrowth of tissue within the coronary stent.

While stents and pacemakers have advanced by leaps and bounds over the years, there are still more scientific developments to be made around the heart-aiding devices. That's why the interest and brain power of young scientists is so important. People just like you can easily become the next Wilson Greatbatch with a little curiosity and a whole lot of cool science!

Assurity MRI™

Dual-Chamber Pacemaker

Assurity MRI™

Brief Summary: Prior to using these devices, please review the User's Manual for a complete listing of indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, potential adverse events and directions for use.

Indications: Implantation is indicated in one or more of the following permanent conditions: syncope, presyncope, fatigue, disorientation due to arrhythmia/bradycardia or any combination of those symptoms. Rate-Modulated Pacing is indicated for patients with chronotropic incompetence, and for those who would benefit from increased stimulation rates concurrent with physical activity. Dual-Chamber Pacing is indicated for those patients exhibiting: sick sinus syndrome, chronic, symptomatic second- and third-degree AV block, recurrent Adams-Stokes syndrome, symptomatic bilateral bundle branch block when tachyarrhythmia and other causes have been ruled out. Atrial Pacing is indicated for patients with sinus node dysfunction and normal AV and intraventricular conduction systems. Ventricular Pacing is indicated for patients with significant bradycardia and normal sinus rhythm with only rare episodes of A-V block or sinus arrest, chronic atrial fibrillation, severe physical disability. AF Suppression™ algorithm is indicated for suppression of paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation episodes in patients with one or more of the above pacing indications.

Contraindications: Dual-chamber pulse generators are contraindicated in patients with an implanted cardioverter-defibrillator. Rate-Adaptive Pacing may be inappropriate for patients who experience angina or other symptoms of myocardial dysfunction at higher sensor-driven rates. An appropriate Maximum Sensor Rate should be selected based on assessment of the highest stimulation rate tolerated by the patient.

AF Suppression™ stimulation is not recommended in patients who cannot tolerate high atrial-rate stimulation. Dual-Chamber Pacing, though not contraindicated for patients with chronic atrial flutter, chronic atrial fibrillation, or silent atria, may provide no benefit beyond that of single-chamber pacing in such patients. Single-Chamber Ventricular Demand Pacing is relatively contraindicated in patients who have demonstrated pacemaker syndrome, have retrograde VA conduction, or suffer a drop in arterial blood pressure with the onset of ventricular pacing. Single-Chamber Atrial Pacing is relatively contraindicated in patients who have demonstrated compromise of AV conduction.

Potential Adverse Events: The following are potential complications associated with the use of any pacing system: arrhythmia, heart block, thrombosis, threshold elevation, valve damage, pneumothorax, myopotential sensing, vessel damage, air embolism, body rejection phenomena, cardiac tamponade or perforation, formation of fibrotic tissue/local tissue reaction, inability to interrogate or program a device because of programmer malfunction, infection, interruption of desired device function due to electrical interference, loss of desired pacing and/or sensing due to lead displacement, body reaction at electrode interface or lead malfunction (fracture or damage to insulation), loss of normal device function due to battery failure or component malfunction, device migration, pocket erosion or hematoma, pectoral muscle stimulation, phrenic nerve or diaphragmatic stimulation. The following, in addition to the above, are potential complications associated with the use of rate-modulated pacing systems: inappropriate, rapid pacing rates due to sensor failure or to the detection of signals other than patient activity, loss of activity-response due to sensor failure, palpitations with high-rate pacing.

Refer to the User's Manual for detailed indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions and potential adverse events.


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