A pacemaker is a small device permanently implanted under the skin (most often in the shoulder area just under the collarbone) that sends electrical signals to start or regulate a slow heartbeat.
Why would I need a pacemaker implanted?
When your heart's natural pacemaker or electrical circuit malfunctions, the signals often become erratic (know as arrhythmia) causing your heart to beat too slow, too fast, or too irregular to stimulate adequate contractions of the chambers.
A permanent pacemaker can be used to correct a heart rhythm irregularity if it is abnormally slow or erratic, or if the electrical pathways are blocked.
How does a pacemaker work?
A pacemaker is made up of a pulse generator that produces electrical signals, wires (known as leads) that conduct electrical signals to the heart from the pulse generator and electrodes.
Using electrodes attached to the generator and battery, the pacemaker is wired to your heart, and just like a little computer, it can "sense" when the heart's natural rate falls below the rate that has been programmed into its circuitry. Using this information, the pacemaker figures out what electrical pulses are needed and how often.
How is a pacemaker implanted?
A pacemaker is inserted by your cardiologist in either the cardiac catheterization or electrophysiology laboratory. You will be administered local anesthesia at the incision site. Sedation medication can be given to help you relax and many patients sleep during the procedure.
Your doctor will make a small incision just under the collarbone to insert the lead(s) into the heart through a blood vessel. Once the lead is in place, it’s tested to make sure it is in the right place and functional. The lead is then attached to the generator, which is placed just under the skin through the incision made earlier. Once the procedure is completed, you will go to recovery, and likely be required to spend a night or two in the hospital so that the functioning of the implanted device may be observed.
Can I live a normal life with a pacemaker?
Pacemakers generally last five to seven years or longer (depending on usage and the type of device) and, in most cases, you will be able to lead a normal life that includes daily activities/exercise. You should; however, always have your pacemaker checked regularly to ensure that it is working properly.
There are certain precautions that must be taken into consideration when you have a pacemaker. Click here
for a list of things you should discuss with your doctor in detail.
You will also receive an identification card from the manufacturer that includes information about your specific model of pacemaker and the serial number as well as how the device works. You should carry this card with you at all times so that the information is always available to any health care professional who may have reason to examine and/or treat you.