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The Australian Pacemaker: Telectronics (1965-1995)

Telectronics model 150B VVI pacemaker photographed by David Prutchi, Ph.D.  www.implantable-device.comIn 1965, Australian medical device pioneer Noel Gray established Telectronics – Australia’s first manufacturing facility for producing pacemakers that were designed in-house.  Telectronics was an innovative developer, achieving some major successes in the early cardiac pacing field, for example, Telectronics’ leads allowed narrowing the pacing pulse to its current nominal of 0.5 milliseconds; encapsulating the pacemaker in titanium instead of epoxy; using a microplasma weld to join the two halves of the pacemaker capsule; creating one of the first rate-responsive ‘demand’ pacemakers; and isolating the pacemaker’s battery in a separate compartment to deal with the problem of leaking mercury-zinc batteries.

By 1986 Telectronics had become the major subsidiary of Nucleus Ltd, an Australian high technology health products group.  At the time, Telectronics was the fifth largest pacemaker company in the world, with production sites in North America, South America, Europe and Australia.

In 1994 Telectronics Pacing Systems, by then a US subsidiary of Pacific Dunlop, had become the third largest US manufacturer of heart pacemakers. But that year Pacific Dunlop was hit by litigation in world-wide class-actions suits stemming from the death of patients implanted with Telectronics’ Accufix leads implanted since 1987.  In 1996 Pacific Dunlop sold the Telectronics Pacing Systems business to St Jude Medical Inc. for $170 million. Shortly afterwards the Telectronics brand name was included when St Jude sold Medtel, a medical products distribution business, to Getz Brothers and Co Inc of California in 1997.

Telectronics VVI pacemaker picture by Daniel Villamil, CCC Medical

Image Credit: Daniel Villamil

 

 
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3 Comments  comments 

3 Responses

  1. Chris Gray

    Dear David
    Thank you for recognising my late father Noel Gray in your article on ‘Australian Pacing’. I am currently working on getting ready a detailed book written by Noel, about his life and it will contain a detailed account of how he started Telectronics. For your information he formed the company in 1963 to manufacture medical electronic equipment including the pacemaker. Former work mates of his at the Phillips owned company Kriesler remember that he made an experimental implantable pacemaker there in 1956. Before he died he and I worked on his leadless pacemaker ideas and he was granted 5 US patents from this work. Sadly he died before seeing that the industry is now taking up this leadless approach to pacing. He always believed the leads were a problem and that they were pacing the ventricles in the wrong place.
    Thank you again for recognising Noel
    Best regards Chris

    • Dear Chris,
      I hope this will be helpful. We are an Australian company Taylor Ceramic Engineering, based in Sydney, that worked closely with Telectronics in the 80’s & 90’s.

      We R&D’d & manufactured Alumina; Insulating Fixtures for Terminal Welding, Insulator Cassettes, Ceramic Bushes and Measurement Gauges.

      We still have the drawings and in some cases the Alumina parts (with titanium components attached). I’m not sure if any of this information would be useful?

      If so, please don’t hesitate to contact me alyssa@taylorceramicengineering.com

      All the best,
      Alyssa Taylor

  2. […] Gray, son of Telectronics‘ founder Dr. Noel Gray, sent me this picture of an early Telectronics P4 pacemaker with […]