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Heartbeat Might One Day Power Pacemakers
Date:11/10/2008

British researchers suggest harnessing that energy could lead to cardiac devices that last longer, do more

MONDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- In a new twist on the concept of renewable energy, British researchers report that harnessing the heart's own energy may provide power for pacemakers and implanted defibrillators to work.

That might lead to devices that last longer and do even more, said the scientists, who presented their findings at the American Heart Association's annual scientific sessions in New Orleans.

"The heart ejecting is doing an awful lot of work. It's a tremendous mechanical force," said Dr. Ann Bolger, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association (AHA) and William Watt Kerr professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Bolger described a "ballistocardiograph," consisting of a table suspended from the ceiling. A patient lies on the table, and doctors measure the heart beat as actual movement of the table.

Capturing part of that force, Bolger added, "may make the difference between ever needing your battery changed."

Implantable pacemakers are battery-run devices that help the heart maintain a regular rhythm. Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), also battery-powered, pick up dangerous heart rhythms and then deliver an electric shock to restore normal rhythms.

According to the researchers, adding more power to pacemakers and implantable defibrillators would necessitate bigger devices. That becomes an issue of "patient tolerance and comfort," Bolger said.

The microgenerator developed by inventors at Southampton University Hospital in the United Kingdom is called the self-energizing implantable medical microsystem (SIMM) and was tested by InVivo Technology, Perpetuum and Zarlink Semiconductor using British government funds.

The microgenerator and two "bladders" are mounted on the wire that connects the
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