AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center is constantly looking to improve care given to veterans. In February, they made history with one of their recent improvements, and became the first VA hospital in the state to implant the world’s smallest pacemaker.
The pacemaker was implanted by Dr. Mehendra Mandawat, who has implanted thousands of pacemakers in his 25 years performing the surgery. The surgery is necessary for people who have damage to the electrical system of their heart. Dr. Mandaway explains, “Pacemakers will generate a beat of their own, and would regulate the heart back to normal.” Dr. Timothy Hall, the Deputy Chief of Staff at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, said, “This pace maker, which is the smallest one ever invented, is a good example of the kind of things we do to make sure we better serve the veterans.”
The new pacemaker was approved by the FDA in 2016. It is implanted with a catheter, and takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Dr. Mandawat said, “There is no scar, no visible lump outside, and once it’s inserted, no one would know there’s a pacemaker in the body.” This pacemaker can last for up to 12 years, and also lets patients keep the ability to have MRI scans if necessary.
The doctor said he had to undergo about 16 hours of training to be able to implant it in a patient. He said, "You have to do five of these in pigs and another two in cadavers.” The patient who received the implant in February is doing well, and says he does not even feel that there’s anything in his body.
In the future, Dr. Hall thinks there will be many more veterans getting this pacemaker. He said, "I assume based on the patient population we have that it’s something we will do a significant amount in the future.”
Dr. Hall says the advancement is another example of the Medical Center’s main goal, which is giving veterans the best, most up-to-date care available.