Pacemaker implantation is one of the most common types of heart surgery that is carried out, in fact, as of 2016, there were an estimated 1.14 million pacemaker users globally. This number is expected to increase to 1.43 million by 2023.

Medical Devices Network had the opportunity to interview one pacemaker user, who, in an uncanny turn of events, works for a company that produces the precision medical wire that is used in pacemakers.

Minna Rodling, brand manager at Sandvik, which produces precision medical wire brand Exera, got her pacemaker in 2004.

“I was tired all the time, and for a long time I was wondering why,” she explains. “One day I was having a discussion with my mother and she mentioned something about checking her pulse for her heart condition, which prompted me to take my pulse that day. I guess it had been in the back of my mind, that there was something not right and I would need to check it out. My pulse turned out to be 37 beats per minute, I asked my husband if he thought this was normal, but we agreed I should go to the hospital.

“When I was at the hospital being examined, for what turned out to be a failure in the signal from the sinus node, they kept asking if I do sports at an elite level, since elite level sportsmen/women can have really low resting heart rate. They mentioned Gunde Svan, who is one of the most famous – if not the most famous – skier of all times in Sweden. Well even if I do my exercise, I’m really far from elite level on any sports! So for me, it was very funny to be compared to Gunde Svan.”

Finding answers

Now that there was an explanation for Minna’s chronic fatigue, it was suggested that she opted for pacemaker implantation. A pacemaker artificially takes over the role of the sinus node if it isn’t working properly by sending electrical impulses to stimulate the heart.

“I was being prevented from doing a lot more than just going to work. I could only take care of the necessary things, but not much more. The difference was very clear when I got the pacemaker, and that procedure was really easy. I have check-ups, but it’s not that often anymore because nowadays you can have the monitor at your home that tracks the device’s performance.”

Pacemakers need precision medical wire to operate

Sandvik medical wire is an essential component in pacemakers to enable electrical impulses to be transmitted from the pacemaker to the heart and to communicate information about the activity of the heart back to the pacemaker. Drawing on expertise in metal alloys and medical wire configurations, Sandvik manufactures efficient and reliable pacemaker leads.

Typically the lead is made from a metal alloy such as CoCrMo and is insulated by a polymer, such as polyurethane. These configurations are chosen to meet the requirements of this application, as pacemaker leads must feature properties such as ultra-high strength, toughness, ductility and excellent corrosion resistance to withstand the thousands of heart beats as well as the chemical composition in the human body.

Despite the simple procedure (most patients will be put under local anaesthesia and will be in and out of the hospital the same day), pacemakers are a life-changing device. Most units work just when they’re needed, as they are programmed to adjust the discharge rate in response to the patient’s needs.

“The pacemaker helps me about 90% of the time,” Rodling explains. “My life would be completely different without it.”