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Cardiac Pacemaker

A pacemaker is a small electronic device which is surgically implanted and attached to the heart via electrodes in order to regulate the patient’s heartbeat.  The pacemaker sends electrical signals to the heart , stimulating it to beat at a desired rate.  Typically, pacemakers are used to treat bradycardia, which is an abnormally slow resting heart rate.


Who needs a pacemaker?

Pacemakers are used in patients who have a resting heart rate that is abnormally slow.  Normally, a person’s heart rate is controlled by the body’s natural pacemaker which sends electrical signals to the heart, causing it to beat.  For a variety of reasons, including old age, medication and heart disease, this natural pacemaker can slow down.

When the heart does not beat fast enough, the brain and body fail to receive adequate blood flow and thus become deprived of oxygen.  This can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, fatigue, weakness or shortness of breath.  In some cases, an extremely slow heartbeat can occur, which can be fatal.

Doctors may advise pacemakers for heart diseases which cause arrhythmia, such as heart block.  Heart block is a failure of the heart’s electrical system in which the electrical impulses that regulate the heartbeat are disrupted.

What can I expect from a pacemaker insertion procedure?

Cardiac pacemaker implantation is a minor surgery which is performed under a local anesthetic.  Similar to the ICD implant procedure, the doctor will make one or more small incisions in the patient’s chest, and then guide the wires to the heart through a large vein.  The pacemaker device itself is then placed beneath the skin below the collarbone.

The patient will need to stay in the hospital overnight following the procedure so that the medical staff can ensure that the device is working properly.  Once released, recovery is fairly quick, and the patient can usually resume normal activities within a few days.

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