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Patients of Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge among first to receive pioneering ICD to treat abnormal heart rhythms





Two patients of Royal Papworth Hospital are among the first in Europe to receive a new type of implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to treat abnormal heart rhythms.

John Shadlock, 48, from Newmarket, and Gemma Drabble, 39, from Nottinghamshire were given the ICDs as they are at increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr Greg Mellor, consultant cardiologist at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, left
Dr Greg Mellor, consultant cardiologist at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, left

An ICD is a device about half the size of a mobile phone with wires leading to the heart. Usually implanted under the skin near the armpit or below the collarbone, it helps control the rhythm of the heart and delivers life-saving defibrillation. ICDs have been made famous in recent years due to high-profile cases such as Manchester United footballer Christian Eriksen and Luton Town captain Tom Lockyer.

John and Gemma received two of the first implants outside of European clinical trials of a pioneering extra-vascular ICD (EV-ICD), from Medtronic, which has wires behind the sternum, making it more effective and safer for patients who have fast heart rhythms.

The Aurora EV-ICD from Medtronic is implanted beneath the left armpit with the lead placed outside the heart and veins, under the breastbone. This potentially reduces the risk of injury to the vein or heart which could cause a life-threatening complication.
The Aurora EV-ICD from Medtronic is implanted beneath the left armpit with the lead placed outside the heart and veins, under the breastbone. This potentially reduces the risk of injury to the vein or heart which could cause a life-threatening complication.

It is the first major development in ICD technology in more than a decade.

Greg Mellor, consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Cambridge’s Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are very pleased to be among the first centres in Europe to have successfully implanted the new Aurora EV-ICD system which will help to treat conditions where there is an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

The procedures took place in a catheter laboratory at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
The procedures took place in a catheter laboratory at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

“Defibrillators can help save lives for patients. This includes those who have survived a previous cardiac arrest or those with a heart condition where there is a substantial risk of cardiac arrest in the future.

“Traditional ICDs involve putting wires inside a patient’s heart and whilst these work effectively, there can be long-term complications associated with these, such as infection.

“With the Aurora EV-ICD, we place the lead outside the heart, but by positioning it under the patient’s sternum and closer to the heart it requires less energy.

“This means the smaller battery lasts several years longer and is also able to provide anti-tachycardia pacing which can be used to treat some fast heart rhythms without needing to shock the heart.”

Gemma Drabble, outside Royal Papworth Hospital
Gemma Drabble, outside Royal Papworth Hospital

Gemma, a mum of four young children, was diagnosed with heart failure in January 2023 and spent weeks at Royal Papworth Hospital, including five days in critical care.

Her condition was managed by medication by the Royal Papworth team, but was called at the start of 2024 by Dr Mellor to discuss the new EV-ICD device.

“Having the device won’t change my symptoms but knowing it is quietly working in the background to pace my heart properly, it provides me with assurance and more of a chance of watching my children grow up,” she said.

“In the long run, if mummy does get poorly, they’ll know this device could potentially save my life.”

John Shadlock, from Newmarket
John Shadlock, from Newmarket

John, who had a heart attack nine years ago, was referred to Royal Papworth in December 2023 suffering from a shortness of breath and was approached just a week later by Dr Mellor about having the new device implanted.

“I’ve lost too many friends to illness in the past, so I wanted to put my trust in Dr Mellor’s expertise and get it done,” said John.

Within days, John had the procedure and returned home after an overnight stay in a cardiology ward. He has since been recovering well.

“I’m really grateful for how quickly this has all happened,” he added.

Dr Greg Mellor, seventh from right, and catheter laboratory staff from Royal Papworth Hospital with representatives from Medtronic
Dr Greg Mellor, seventh from right, and catheter laboratory staff from Royal Papworth Hospital with representatives from Medtronic

Dr Mellor said: “Both patients have recovered well from their procedures and will now be able to lead an improved quality of life thanks to these devices.

“This is another great example of innovation here at Royal Papworth, thanks to collaborative work between Medtronic and our catheter laboratory, cardiology and day ward teams.”



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