Pacemakers

A pacemaker is a small device that helps the heart beat normally.
In a normal heart, electrical signals tell your heart to pump blood in a certain rhythm. If those electrical signals are disrupted, the rhythm can change.

When this happens, your heart may not beat well enough to pump blood to all parts of your body. This can lead to symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, or fainting.

A pacemaker is a small, battery-powered device that creates electrical currents that keep the heart beating at a normal rhythm.

The device is put under the skin of your chest or belly. Flexible wires, called leads, run from the pacemaker to your heart.

When the pacemaker detects that your heart rate is too slow, it sends a small electrical pulse to your heart.

Sometimes people need temporary pacemakers to treat short-term problems, like a slow heartbeat caused by a heart attack.

You might need a permanent pacemaker if you sometimes have an abnormal heart rate that causes symptoms.

You also might need a certain kind of pacemaker if you have heart failure. This type of pacemaker can help your heart beat in a more efficient way, which can help reduce your symptoms.

Pacemaker Implantation

A pacemaker is implanted during minor surgery. You're given medication to make you sleep and to numb your chest.

Your health care provider makes a small cut in the skin of your chest or belly. The leads are threaded through a vein and sent into the heart.
The pacemaker is then placed just under your skin. It's tested, and then the cut is closed with stitches.

You may go home when your health care provider says it's OK. Your provider will give you specific instructions about follow-up care.

You may have mild pain, swelling, or tenderness where the pacemaker sits under your skin, until the area heals.

Most people return to their normal life within a few days. You'll need to avoid any heavy lifting or activity until the area heals completely, which usually takes about six weeks.

Living with a Pacemaker

You will need regular checkups to make sure your pacemaker works properly. Let your provider know right away if you faint or feel like you might faint.

You may notice when your pacemaker sends an electrical pulse, but it shouldn't be painful. The pacemaker keeps a record of your heart's electrical activity, which can help your provider plan your treatment.

You may need minor surgery to replace your pacemaker box in five to ten years. In rare cases, the pacemaker will need to be replaced if it stops working before this time.

Tell your health care provider if you begin having symptoms of heart rhythm problems again.

Let all of your health care providers know about your pacemaker. You may also want to carry an ID card or bracelet with information about your pacemaker.

Medical devices and other equipment with strong magnets or strong electrical fields can disrupt your pacemaker. Ask your health care provider if you need to make changes to avoid this disruption or before having imaging tests such as an M-R-I.

Things to Remember

You might need a pacemaker if you have certain abnormal heart rhythms.
A pacemaker sends a small pulse of electricity to regulate your heart rhythm if it's too slow.
Tell your health care provider if you begin having symptoms of heart rhythm problems again.

What We Have Learned

All pacemakers are permanent. True or false? The answer is false. Some are permanent, but others are temporary.

You may need to have your pacemaker replaced in five to ten years. True or false? The answer is true. A minor surgery is done to replace the pacemaker box.

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