Nuclear-powered pacemaker, 1970s

Nuclear-powered pacemaker, 1970s

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Credit: US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Nuclear-powered pacemaker. 1970s Medtronic cardiac pacemaker containing 150 milligrams of plutonium-238 to provide thermoelectric power. In July 1972, this was the first pacemaker licensed to be implanted for clinical evaluation. A pacemaker supplies electrical impulses along wires connected to the heart. These electrical impulses help to keep the heart beating regularly when a patient has an irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia). The first modern pacemakers were developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Atomic batteries using radioisotopes (late 1960s) were superseded by the development of lithium batteries in the early 1970s. Photographed circa 1973.

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