A first: a pacemaker implanted transvenously on a donkey


The cardiology team of the Centre hospitalier universitaire vétérinaire of Saint-Hyacinthe, in collaboration with the Small Animal Surgery, Equine Internal Medicine, Equine Surgery, Anesthesia and Medical Imaging services performed the implantation of a pacemaker on a donkey. This technique, a fluoroscopy-guided transvenous implantation had not been described in equidaes yet.


The animal suffered from atrioventricular blocks and syncopes frequently, even several times an hour during the day before the surgery. A non-invasive technique was used. A temporary pacemaker was first implanted on the standing and awake animal, echocardiography-guided. This was followed by the installation of permanent pacemaker under general anesthesia, by transvenous method, guided by fluoroscopy.


Dr. Marie-Claude Bélanger, Internal Medicine and Cardiology Professor for the Small Animal Hospital, is particularly proud of this achievement as her mentors, Dr. DiFruscia and Dr. Pibarot, were the first to implant a pacemaker surgically (by epicardial way) in a donkey in the 90s.


“It was for me the opportunity to continue their brilliant work.” Dr. Bélanger would like to thank Patrick Sabourin, Manager of the CHUV, for his support in this ambitious project set up in less than 24 hours. She also mentions the contribution of Martine Lamarre, Cardiology Technician and Dr. Christina Plante, Postdoctoral Fellow in Cardiology at the CHUV who planned it brilliantly and was responsible to program the generator with parameters suitable for the heart activity of a donkey.


“We could not have done this without the precious collaboration of Dr. Herndon, Dr. Allano, Dr. Steagall and their teams. It was actually the result of a great collaboration and we are very proud of it! ” said Dr. Bélanger.


The little donkey is doing very well and is back home with regular heartbeats, just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day with her owners!