A NORTH-EAST hospital is claiming a world first after implanting a new type of long-lasting heart pacemaker.

The Ingenio pacemaker has a guaranteed battery life of 14 years – nearly double the seven or eight-year lifespan of an average pacemaker battery – which will reduce the number of replacement operations required by patients.

Consultant cardiologist, Dr Nick Linker, from The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, said: “When your battery runs out you have to have another operation to replace it and obviously every time you have an operation there’s the potential for complications.

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"Having a battery that lasts for 14 years means fewer procedures and fewer complications.

“The Ingenio is very clever. It has a number of novel features, but these do not reduce the battery life.”

Retired headteacher Ann Gartside, 67, of Nunthorpe, near Middlesbrough, was one of the first patients to receive the up-to-the-minute device at James Cook.

“I have had a pacemaker for 13 years, but the one I had fitted in 2005 was reaching the end of its life,” she said.

“Dr Linker said this new pacemaker was being developed that had a guaranteed life of 14 years and I said I was interested. If it means fewer operations, then all the better!

“I’ve seen many developments taking place over the years, but this is a huge leap forward and it’s quite exciting to be one of the first to have one.”

Pacemakers have been used to help patients with heart rhythm problems since 1958. If the heart is beating slower than normal a pacemaker can be inserted to speed it up and regulate the patient’s heart rhythm.

The battery life for most pacemakers is about seven to eight years, but the Ingenio pacemaker encompasses new battery technology that gives it a lifespan of at least 14 years.

Designed by the American firm, Boston Scientific Ltd, the Ingenio has a number of complex features, including the ability to increase the heartbeat in response to movement which helps patients feel less tired during physical activity.

Dr Linker added: “It’s nice to be the first hospital to use this device, but the main reason I was so keen to start using it is the number of benefits it has for the patient.

“It’s good news for all concerned as it will also save the hospital money in the long run, because we will not have to perform so many replacement operations.”