St. Jude Medical has recently won Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a new pacemaker and a new Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (AICD). Both units are wireless! They also have already been approved for use in Europe.
Having your pacemaker or AICD checked usually happens every three months and is not difficult. I have a small box, about the size of a two large paperback books. I connect this box to a telephone line, then open the box and take out a small egg shaped device, connected to the box by a wire. Press a button on the box, then hold the egg against my abdomen just above my pacemaker. If I have it in the wrong place or I move it during the test, a small light comes on to let me know I am getting too far away from the pacemaker.
Once the box has read the pacemaker, it flashes another light and I push a button. While I am putting the egg back into the box and closing the lid, the unit automatically calls my monitoring service and relays the report. When it is finished I can disconnect from the telephone line and store it until next time. Total elapsed time: About ten minutes. It’s pretty simple.
But these new units feature wireless technology using St. Jude’s MERLIN system. With MERLIN, doctors could monitor an implanted device several times a day without the patient even knowing it. Presumably, the patient sets up MERLIN in an unobtrusive place and goes on about his life. Whenever the patient comes within range of the monitoring device, MERLIN asks “How are you doing today?” – and reports the pacemaker/AICD’s answer to the proper monitoring service. That’s a third grade level explanation of how it works, but it will do.
The pacemaker check is already so simple that I write my next scheduled check on my calender and enter it in my computer to make sure I don’t miss it. This will make it even simpler. People using the MERLIN system may very well forget that they have a little machine inside of their body that keeps their heart going!
And that’s the whole idea;