A heart failure patient has become the first person in the world to be fitted with a new heart implant that can communicate with doctors on a smartphone, an NHS trust said.
David Southworth, 73, of Colchester, had an operation to fit the advanced implant at Essex Cardiothoracic Centre in Basildon.
Doctors have likened the device to having a “paramedic in your pocket” and Mr Southworth said it has already helped with his breathing.
The implant, which is about the size of a pocket watch, can communicate with Mr Southworth’s consultant on a smartphone or tablet, wherever he is in the world.
The device has advanced algorithms which tailor its therapy to meet Mr Southworth’s needs.
It does this by monitoring his heart every minute, identifying irregular heartbeats and responding with small electrical impulses that correct the heart’s electrical signals and reduce patient symptoms.
It also sends advance warnings to hospital consultants, should it detect any changes which require health professional intervention.
Dr Duncan Field, a consultant cardiologist at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, fitted the Medtronic Cobalt implant earlier this month and has since carried out the procedure on several more patients.
The operation was carried out under local anaesthetic, with Dr Field passing leads through the veins into the heart and then implanting the device via a small incision under Mr Southworth’s collarbone.
Dr Field said: “The Cobalt implant offers a personalised approach to defibrillator therapy, which is a big leap forward in performance and intelligence that I liken to having a paramedic in your pocket.
“The defibrillator protects the heart from dangerous arrhythmias and can give the hospital team advanced warning if we need to intervene, wherever in the world the patient might be.
“The cardiac resynchronisation part of the device focuses on helping the muscles of the heart to beat in the right way.
“It’s like a tug of war team – if you can get the muscles to work at the same time and in rhythm, they are more effective at pumping blood around the body.
“Mr Southworth’s early progress is encouraging, as improvement takes place during the first three to six months following implant.
“Thanks to the protection of the device, he can go and live his life again.”
Mr Southworth said: “It’s helped me to breathe easier, walk further, and two weeks on, I feel better for it already.
“I took the procedure in my stride and I am pleased to play my part.
“Hopefully, the device can help a lot of other patients similar to me.”
Rob Kowal, chief medical officer of the Cardiac Rhythm and Heart Failure division at Medtronic – the makers of the device – said: “These advancements will help physicians respond to patients’ individual needs through informed clinical decision making, potentially improving the outcomes of patients around the world.”