A pacemaker is a small medical device which gets placed into the chest or abdomen of people with abnormal heart rhythms.
The pacemaker uses electrical pulses to help control the heart rate, allowing the heart to beat with more regularly and pump blood throughout the body. Pacemakers are generally placed under the skin in the chest, just under the collarbone, and are hooked up to the heart with tiny wires.
Pacemakers run on batteries and are designed to work only when needed (heartbeat is too slow, too fast or irregular). Each battery should last five to eight years or longer.
There are a variety of reasons why someone would need the assistance of a pacemaker. They can be used to speed up a slow heart rhythm, they help control an abnormal or fast heart rhythm, they can help ensure proper coordination of electrical signaling between the upper and lower chambers of the heart, they can help prevent certain dangerous arrhythmias, they can coordinate electrical signaling between the ventricles, and they can ensure that the ventricles contract normally if the atria are quivering instead of beating with a normal rhythm (atrial fibrillation).
According to the Mayo Clinic, surgery to implant the pacemaker is usually performed while the patient is awake using local anesthesia for numbing incision areas. The procedure typically takes a few hours.
While in surgery, flexible, insulated wires will be inserted into a major vein near the collarbone area and guided through to the heart using special X-ray equipment.
Following surgery, a hospital stay of 1 day is typically required. During this time, the pacemaker gets programmed to meet the specific needs of the patient.
Follow up visits will be required to make sure everything is functioning properly and to make adjustments as needed.
A big concern of people who are getting pacemakers for the first time is the fear of electrical interference. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s unlikely that electrical interference will cause a pacemaker to stop working properly, however certain precautions should be taken with regard to cell phones, security systems, medical equipment and power-generating equipment.
To see what those precautions are, visit the Mayo Clinic website.
Sources:National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteAmerican Heart AssociationMayo Clinic