Abnormal Heart Rhythms and Pacemakers

The normal, healthy heart has its own pacemaker that regulates the rate that the heart beats.

However, some hearts don’t beat regularly. A pacemaker can sometimes correct the problem. A pacemaker is a small device that sends electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a suitable heart rate and rhythm. A pacemaker may also be used to treat fainting spells (syncope), congestive heart failure, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Pacemakers are implanted just under the skin of the chest during a minor surgical procedure.

The pacemaker has two parts: the leads and a pulse generator. The pulse generator houses the battery and a tiny computer, and resides just under the skin of the chest. The leads are wires that are threaded through the veins into the heart and implanted into the heart muscle. They send impulses from the pulse generator to the heart muscle, as well as sense the heart’s electrical activity.

Each impulse causes the heart to contract. The pacemaker may have one to three leads, depending on the type of pacemaker needed to treat your heart problem.

There are different types of pacemakers:

Your doctor will decide what type of pacemaker you need based on your heart condition.

The doctor programs the minimum heart rate. When your heart rate drops below that set rate, your pacemaker generates (fires) an electrical impulse that passes through the lead to the heart muscle. This causes the heart muscle to contract, creating a heartbeat.

Pacemakers are also used to treat the following:

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How Should I Prepare to Get a Pacemaker?

Before your procedure to get a pacemaker implanted:

How Are Pacemakers Implanted?

Pacemakers are implanted two ways:

The doctor will determine, which pacemaker implant method is best for you.


What Happens During the Pacemaker Procedure?

The endocardial pacemaker implant takes about one to five hours to perform.

What Happens After the Pacemaker Procedure?

You may be admitted to the hospital overnight. The nurses will monitor your heart rate and rhythm.

You will be shown how to care for your wound. Keep your wound clean and dry. Look at your wound every day to make sure it is healing. Call your doctor if you notice:

Your pacemaker settings will be checked before you leave the hospital. You will receive a temporary ID card that tells you:

Within three months, you will receive a permanent card from the pacemaker company. Carry this card with you at all times in case you need medical attention at another hospital.

Will I Be Able to Move Around After the Procedure?

Should I Avoid Certain Electrical Devices With a Pacemaker?

If you have concerns about your job or activities, ask your doctor.

How Long Will My Pacemaker Last?

Pacemakers may last five to 10 years and sometimes longer, depending on how often they are used. When the battery becomes low, it will need to be changed.

How Often Will I Need to See My Doctor?

A complete pacemaker check should be done six weeks after your pacemaker is implanted. This follow-up appointment is critical, because adjustments will be made that will prolong the life of your pacemaker. Then your pacemaker should be checked every three months on the telephone to evaluate battery function. Your nurse will explain how to check your pacemaker using the telephone transmitter. Once or twice a year you will need a more complete exam.

If you have a biventricular pacemaker, you may need to visit the doctor’s office or hospital more frequently to make sure your device is working properly and the settings do not need to be adjusted.

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