Heart surgeons at UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids are starting to use what’s billed as the world’s smallest pacemaker in one of the most common heart procedures.

Pacemakers are typically inserted in the shoulder, requiring a long incision and wires leading to the heart. This device is put into the leg and carried to the heart by a vein. Dr. Mohit Chawla says it makes a huge difference in how fast patients recover.

“The difference is that the patients can basically walk home within 24 hours of the implant,” Chawla says. “There’s no visible scarring or signs they even has a cardiac procedure done.”

So far, the pacemaker has been successfully implanted in two patients in Cedar Rapids. One came during open heart surgery, making the surgical team at St. Luke’s the first in the nation to insert the tiny device during such a procedure.

“So, it’s about the size of a couple of erasers on a pencil,” he says, “maybe two or three of those.”

Chawla is an electrophysiologist for UnityPoint Health and directs the Arrhythmic Center at St. Luke’s.

(Reporting by Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio)