The world's smallest heart detective

Last updated 14:20 09/06/2014

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The world's smallest heart detective is getting a lot of love at Waikato Hospital.

Clinicians there are the first experts in New Zealand to implant the little piece of technology under someone's skin.

That skin belongs to a 43-year-old Taranaki woman, Susan Mundt, but it's her heart that's the problem.

The chip is capable of wirelessly diagnosing potentially dangerous irregular heartbeats, and while Mundt is extremely fit - she ran a the Mountain to Surf marathon earlier this year - she has a history of palpitations every six weeks. 

They're brief episodes and come with a dose of dizziness. Yet other risks include death.

Without appropriate diagnosis and treatment, the effects of undetected or misdiagnosed heart rhythm disorders can be fatal and occur without warning.

Experienced cardiologist Dr Clyde Wade used the miniature Medtronic Reveal LINQTM  implantable cardiac monitor for two procedures today at one of Waikato Hospital's new catheterisation laboratories.

Mundt said while she was feeling "a little nervous" before the procedure, it was over in a matter of minutes and hours later she was feeling "completely normal".

She travelled home to Stratford today and said she will be able to don her running shoes as early as tomorrow.

Mundt said the monitor will record what is going on in her heart and hopefully diagnose the reason she is experiencing the palpitations and dizziness.

Wade said it will help clinicians prevent the high number of arrhythmia-related events, including cases of death in New Zealand, through detection and appropriate treatment of heart rhythm disorders.

The little monitor is placed just beneath the skin's surface through a small incision of less than one centimetre.

It detects minute changes in a patient's heart rhythm by continuously monitoring, recording and storing data inside the device for up to three years.It's also almost invisible to the naked eye in most patients. 

Due to its wireless nature, physicians can get notifications quickly if patients need medical attention between regular appointments.

There's a lack of awareness of heart rhythm disorders in the medical community and, as a result, they often go unrecognised or are misdiagnosed.

 According to group Arrhythmia Alliance, one such disorder, known as syncope - fainting - can be caused by an underlying cardiac condition yet is often misdiagnosed as epilepsy.

The resulting treatment misses the mark.

Detecting underlying heart rhythm conditions is the first step to improving those health outcomes.  

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- Waikato Times

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