Pacemakers and Laser Welding
You probably know someone with a heart ailment. If the ailment is irregular heartbeat, chances are that person’s treatment includes a pacemaker.
What are pacemakers?
According to the American Heart Association, in 2005, approximately 180,000 heart patients in the United States received implantable pacemakers (1). For people whose heartbeat is irregular, a pacemaker can be a lifesaver. Irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, means your heart beats in an uneven pattern—sometimes too slowly, sometimes too quickly. This arrhythmia is usually caused by a faulty electrical system in the heart. A battery-powered pacemaker sends electrical impulses to the heart to help it beat at the proper pace. Pacemakers are implanted under the skin near the collarbone and then connected by wires to the heart, through which they send the electrical signals that even out the heartbeat.(2)
How pacemakers help people with heart problems live a better life
Dr. Kevin Heist, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, describes the symptoms of heart failure from abnormal heartbeat: “Patients often feel fatigue, as well as shortness of breath from fluid building up in the lungs and swelling of the legs from fluid building up there as well.” (3) Because pacemakers coordinate the rhythm of the left and right sides of the heart, they can improve heart failure symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, lightheadedness, and fainting.
The latest generation of pacemakers can do even more than send electrical signals. Some can monitor blood temperature and breathing rate, and can even adjust your heart rate as your activity level changes. By easing symptoms of heart failure and adjusting the heart rate, pacemakers enable heart patients to live a more normal life. (4)
Where Does Laser Welding Fit In?
When it comes to the production of pacemakers, the laser welding industry plays two distinct roles. For years they have served as a contract manufacturing source for the production of medical devices, and over time they have also come to serve as a manufacturing source for laser welding systems to allow OEM’s the ability to bring the process in-house.
The assembly of pacemaker components typically takes place in a certified clean room, equipped with hermetically sealed glove boxes. With Litron, they maintain a Class 10,000 clean room equipped with state-of-the-art hermetic glovebox systems, vacuum bake ovens, Trumpf YAG lasers and complete testing equipment in order to comply with strict regulations and quality standards. The atmosphere within the clean room is monitored and controlled through the use of HEPA Filters, ESD Safe Flooring, and Humidity Controls to ensure all parts are safe from contamination and/or latent failure, This controlled environment and conformity to certifications ensures that all medical parts will be built according to specification and within the safety requirements.
When an OEM is ready to bring the laser welding process in-house, the laser welding industry can serve as manufacturing source for top-of-the-line laser systems. In Litron’s case, they’ve built, installed, and tested glovebox welding systems for some of the leading medical device companies including Guidant Cardiac, an in-house cardiac facility in Clomel, Ireland. The glovebox laser welding systems are part of Guidant’s total pacemaker manufacturing process.
At Litron, we’re proud to play a part in the technology that helps heart patients lead active, healthy lives.
1) American Heart Association Web site: http://americanheart.mediaroom.com
2) U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health Web site:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_90074.html
3) U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health Web site:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/pacemakersandimplantabledefibrillators.html
4) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Web site:http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/pace/pace_whatis.html