The first two were performed last week at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital's Heart and Vascular Institute and the Advanced Surgery Institute. Memorial Hospital, which is run by St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County, also maintains a controlling share of the surgery institute.
About a third the size of an AAA battery, the Reveal LINQ monitor remotely records a patient's heart rhythm over long periods of time. The device is used to oversee and treat patients who experience such symptoms as dizziness, unexplained fainting or heart palpitations that may be caused by irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmia.
The device was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 19. Chang-Sing, who is medical director of Memorial's cardiac electrophysiology lab and a member of Medtronic's national electrophysiology advisory board, said development of the miniature implants arose from the need to continually monitor patients' heart rhythms outside of a hospital setting.
<NO1><NO>With a mass of 2.5 grams and a volume of only 1.2 cubic centimeters, the new monitor is 87 percent smaller than Medtronic's older model, Reveal XT. It is powered by a lithium carbon monofluoride battery that is projected to last three years and is inserted using a syringe-like device.
The device is activated minutes before it is inserted through a small incision that's about the width of a pinky fingernail. The previous Medtronic model, which required a larger "pocket" under the skin, took about 15 minutes to implant, Chang-Sing said.
Aside from the smaller size, the device also comes with a separate battery-powered hand-held unit called the Patient Assistant. When a fainting spell or other cardiac-related symptoms occur, the patient can place the hand-held unit over the location of the implant and record heart rhythms.
The data from the Reveal LINQ and Patient Assistant are wirelessly sent to Medtronic's CareLink Network, a leading remote monitoring service that connects data from cardiac patients to the patient's medical providers.
JP Montemayor, a Medtronic representative who was present during Thursday's implant procedure, said the data is sent over a secure cellular band called the Medical Implant Communication Service, or MICS, used specifically for implant devices. Data sent over MICS is "encrypted and can't be hacked into," Montemayor said.
The device, which costs about $5,000, is covered by Medicare and private insurance if the medical indications warrant the procedure, Chang-Sing said.
Back in the Advanced Surgery Institute's recovery room, Leber, the implant patient, explained that his doctor wanted a more continuous reading of his heart condition.
Leber's last operation was an ablation, a procedure that destroys small areas in the heart that may cause problematic heart rhythm. He marveled at how quickly the implant was performed and the technology he was now wearing.
"I'm grateful that the electronics have gone that far," he said.