Patients suffering from cardiovascular disease can now benefit from pacemakers after a successful dual pacemaker surgery was conducted at a private hospital in Nyeri County.

The patients, who earlier had to travel to Nairobi to seek treatment, can now access treatment locally.

The team leader, a cardiologist based in Nyeri Dr Lois Njambi Wagana, said that a pacemaker is a battery-powered device that sends electrical signals to the heart to help it beat at a proper rate or “pace”.

“The pacemaker is surgically placed under your skin, beneath your collarbone, and is connected to your heart by one or more wires, or leads,” Dr Njambi said.

She explains that those patients suffer from an irregular heart rate and experience fatigue, dizziness and breathlessness.

Dr Njambi noted that, in severe cases, the heart may stop beating causing sudden death.

“The dual pacemaker is surgically placed under the skin beneath the collarbone and connected to the heart,” Dr Njambi said. “This helps correct the heartbeat to a normal rate,” she said.

She said that elderly people are at more risk than younger ones.

The cardiologist said the slower heart rates may occur in people aged 65 years and above since, as they grow older, their heartbeats slow down.

“This may cause insufficient blood supply to the body. This disease is caused by failure of the heart’s conduction system or by failure of the ‘natural battery of the heart’, the sinus node, that occurs by chance,” she said.

The cardiologist said that the pacemaker is an expensive device and has to be imported from overseas. It requires technical expertise to implant and a well-prepared team.

She noted that it’s a lifesaving operation and a high-risk operation but with facilities and experience it is possible.

The cardiologist said that the dual chamber pacemaker operation that was performed at Outspan Hospital in Nyeri was the first in the Mount Kenya region and was a success.

The patient, a male aged 70 years, was operated on and was discharged the following day for review after seven days.

She noted that some of the challenges facing patients within this region include the cost. The pacemaker alone costs between Sh180,000 and Sh250,000.

Dr Njambi said the facilities to perform the surgery are few and more people should be trained to make these services widely accessible in the country.

Outspan Teaching and Referral Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Peter Murimi said that the dual pacemaker surgery is a milestone in the region.

“This region has many patients suffering from cardiac conditions that require an operation,” he said.

He noted that patients undergoing the surgery would be covered under the National Hospital Insurance Fund which has currently shifted to the Social Hospital insurance fund.

The medical superintendent said that the patients will be able to access treatment from within the county instead of travelling to Nairobi where they also have to wait for their turn. 

“When the patient qualifies he or she will be scheduled for an operation,” Dr Murimi said.

He said the patient who was operated on had come as a referral and the operation was successful.

Dr Murimi said that many people from the Mt Kenya region suffer from non-communicable diseases including diabetes and hypertension which are major triggers of heart disease.

“The region is faced with a high burden of cardiac-related diseases and this operation will help many patients,” he said.