UK has its 500,000th pacemaker implanted


Karl Sidhu, 52, from Camberley in Surrey has become the 500,000th person in the UK to receive a pacemaker. The implantation of a biventricular implantable cardioverter device fitted took place in the state-of-the-art catheter laboratories at St George’s Hospital, south west London; the same hospital which first undertook the surgery to implant a pacemaker in the UK in 1958.

During the surgical procedure, consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Dr Mark Gallagher, implanted the pacemaker and the three wires involved. The device weighs 68 grams. By contrast the first pacemaker patient implanted in 1958 was a device the size of a pram wheel. As well as being much smaller, today’s pacemakers last seven years or more without a battery change, are software controlled to allow the devices to be programmed from a small external computer, and allow doctors to monitor the device remotely via the internet.

Dr David Ward, the senior consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at St George’s Hospital said: “Implanting pacemakers has become almost routine in UK, but there is nothing routine about it for the patients. Mr Sidhu represents one of the tens of thousands of people in Britain who have had their lives improved thanks to a pacemaker and this milestone should be celebrated.”

It is possible to be exact about the total number of procedures performed in the UK thanks to the Central Cardiac Audit Database, which was instigated in 1977 as the National Pacing Database. Launched by the Department of Health and Heart Rhythm UK (formerly British Pacing Group) – a group dedicated to professional and scientific support for everyone involved in implantation and follow-up of cardiac pacemakers – the database collates data on cardiac surgery and outcomes.

Trudie Lobban, Founder and Trustee of the Arrhythmia Alliance, the coalition body dedicated to raising public and professional awareness of cardiac arrhythmias, said: “The UK was one of the first countries in the world to start implanting devices to treat heart rhythm disorders. Despite this head-start, and the huge number we celebrate today, we have fallen behind other European countries in the use of pacemakers.”