The world’s very first fully implanted pacemaker, in 1958, lasted three hours before the batteries failed. It was replaced by one that lasted two days. Ultimately, Arne Larsson – surgical guinea pig – went on to receive 26 different pacemakers over the next 43 years. Now, a New York woman has become the first person in the world to receive a pacemaker that allows completely wireless monitoring, transmitting clinical data to her doctor each day via the internet. And, if anything ever goes wrong, the doctor is alerted instantly.

Developed by St Jude Medical, the Accent pacemaker contains a low-power radio transmitter that communicates on a frequency band between 402 and 405MHz, a spectrum specially reserved for medical implants. Information from the device is sent to a home transmitter and becomes available for viewing by the clinician via an Internet link and some proprietary software.

So, basically, this patient can provide a full report on the condition of her heart without even leaving home – without doing anything, actually, since the pacemaker reports automatically – and the doctor is able to perform regular check-ups without seeing the patient at all. In fact, since routine pacemaker checks are typically done every six months, the wireless device offers a much greater level of monitoring and care than ever before.

The technology was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration only last month but St Jude Medical is wasting no time at all in promoting the pacemaker to physicians. The team also believes this form of monitoring could have useful applications for other chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. But right now, with an estimated five million Americans suffering from heart failure – and 550,000 new cases diagnosed each year – there’s more than enough business in cardiac disease.