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World’s smallest pacemaker helps busy engineer stay active after a series of strokes from abnormal heart rhythm

(BPT) - Steve Rouillard of Detroit has always been a hands-on, do-it-yourself person. His life as an aerospace engineer keeps him busy, while in his spare time, he enjoys frequent getaways to the Smoky Mountains. Two years ago, however, his busy routine was interrupted by a series of strokes that happened unexpectedly, and left his doctors puzzled.

On a hot summer day, Steve was outside staining a fence when he felt strangely exhausted. Brushing it off as possible dehydration from the heat, Steve flew to Tennessee the next day, but noticed that he was still not feeling right. He lost his appetite, and all he wanted to do was rest.

Doctors suspected COVID-19, but tests came back with nothing out of the ordinary.

'The following week, I woke up still not feeling right,' Steve said. 'I told my wife, 'I can't take this anymore. Something is wrong with me,'' he said.

After being re-evaluated by his doctors at home in Michigan, Steve finally had an answer: what he experienced was a stroke. While he was relieved to receive a diagnosis, his health journey didn't end there.

About a year later, Steve was speaking with his wife when he noticed he couldn't say certain basic words. After going to the hospital, an MRI revealed that Steve had suffered three additional strokes. Steve is one of the more than 795,000 people in the United States who have a stroke every year.1 This time, doctors suspected his strokes might be due to an underlying heart rhythm issue. They prescribed Steve blood thinners and placed a small heart monitor, the Medtronic Reveal LINQ™ insertable cardiac monitor (ICM), just underneath the skin in Steve's chest. ICMs monitor for and can detect intermittent abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation (AF), which can lead to stroke.

Just a few months later, Steve would learn just how valuable his small heart monitor would be. After returning from a trip to Germany, he passed out while sitting on the porch. His cardiologist called, saying the heart monitor had detected that Steve's heart had stopped beating for eight seconds. Steve's doctor recommended a pacemaker immediately to prevent future incidents where Steve's heart might beat too slowly and cause him to pass out again.

Steve received the world's smallest pacemaker, the Medtronic Micra AV2™. Unlike a traditional pacemaker, the leadless pacemaker is the size of a vitamin pill and is implanted inside the heart using a tiny catheter inserted through a vein. The minimally invasive procedure allowed Steve to leave the hospital the same day, with limited restrictions. While each patient's experience can vary, since Steve's procedure, he's regained his active life, and hasn't experienced any additional heart rhythm issues.

'After the procedure, I laid in the recovery room for a few hours and then within a few days went back to normal life,' Steve added.

Today, Steve lives life to its fullest. With his Micra AV2, he is once again able to take on home renovations, travel for work and build furniture in his free time, knowing that he has a pacemaker to help keep his heartbeat from dropping dangerously low.

This National Stroke Awareness Month, Steve is advocating for people like himself to take the signs of stroke seriously and get checked out by specialists who can help you understand the right treatment options for you.

"Now, I don't often have weak legs, speech issues or fatigue. I am very thankful,' said Steve.

This testimonial is based on Steve's experience. Not all patients will experience similar results. Always talk to your doctor about diagnosis, treatment and risk information.

Possible risks associated with the implant of the LINQ Family of ICMs include, but are not limited to, infection at the surgical site, device migration, erosion of the device through the skin and/or sensitivity to the device material. For important safety information about the LINQ family of ICMs, visit:

Possible risks associated with the Micra implant include, but are not limited to, complications at the surgical site, injury to the heart where the device is attached, sensitivity to the device material, failure to deliver therapy when it is needed, or receiving extra therapy when it is not needed. For important safety information about Micra, visit:

1 Tsao CW, Aday AW, Almarzooq ZI, Beaton AZ, Bittencourt MS, Boehme AK, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2023 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2023;147:e93-e621.

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