JDWNRH starts pacemaker interrogation

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) has started using pacemaker interrogation device in the country. Though pacemaker implants are next in line, the pacemaker interrogation is expected to allow patients to come for regular checkups at the hospital. Talking to Business Bhutan, a cardiologist at JDWNRH, Dr. Mahesh Gurung, said that until now, patients who were referred to India for pacemaker implants did not have a proper follow up or monitor, while some patients did not know that they had to follow up.

“Patients with pacemaker have to come for regular checkups or at least to know how much of their battery is left. With the interrogator, the whole data of the patient can be saved and checked,” he said. He also said that St.Jude, an American global medical device company headquartered in Little Canada, donated the pacemaker interrogator to JDWNRH which made it possible to follow up cases.

“St.Jude is willing to lend technical assistance for the first 10 pacemaker implants in the country,” said Dr. Mahesh Gurung.

A pacemaker is a small device that is placed in the chest to help control abnormal heart rhythms.  The device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate. It is usually put in patients with very slow heart rate, also called sick sinus syndrome and also in people with complete heart blockage. The pacemaker helps in generating its own electricity which helps the heart to function normally. Another pacemaker is one with defibrillator. An internal defibrillator gives out electric shock to patients who go into cardiac arrest. These are for patients who are at certain risk of cardiac arrest.

“It is a very intelligent battery. It functions as and when required.” said Dr. Mahesh Gurung. He also said that with sophistication and more algorithms in the pacemakers, the device functions when it detects any abnormalities in the heart, which also then helps in preserving the battery life. Normally, a battery last for 10 years; however, its life is affected by the patient’s dependence on it. More than 45 patients have had pacemaker implants in the country. Dr. Mahesh Gurung said increasing age will result in an increase in the number for pacemaker implants in the country.

However, with implants being the next step in the country, he said that it would decrease the financial burden on Ministry of Health. Currently, patients in need of a pacemaker implant are being referred to India, but if the facility is provided in country, expenditure would decrease by almost Nu 50,000 per patient while sending them abroad would cost Nu 150,000-250,000 each.

Lucky Wangmo from Thimphu