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Heart pacemaker

Cardiac pacemaker implantation; Artificial pacemaker; Permanent pacemaker; Internal pacemaker; Cardiac resynchronization therapy; CRT; Biventricular pacemaker; Arrhythmia - pacemaker; Abnormal heart rhythm - pacemaker; Bradycardia - pacemaker; Heart block - pacemaker; Mobitz - pacemaker; Heart failure - pacemaker; HF - pacemaker; CHF- pacemaker

 

A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device. This device senses when your heart is beating irregularly or too slowly. It sends a signal to your heart that makes your heart beat at the correct pace.

Description

 

Newer pacemakers weigh as little as 1 ounce (28 grams). Most pacemakers have 2 parts:

  • The generator contains the battery and the information to control the heartbeat.
  • The leads are wires that connect the heart to the generator and carry the electrical messages to the heart.

A pacemaker must be implanted under the skin. This procedure takes about 1 hour in most cases. You will be given a sedative to help you relax. You will be awake during the procedure.

A small incision (cut) is made. Most often, the cut is on the left side of the chest below your collarbone. The pacemaker generator is then placed under the skin at this location. The generator may also be placed in the abdomen, but this is less common.

Using live x-rays to see the area, the doctor puts the leads through the cut, into a vein, and then into the heart. The leads are connected to the generator. The skin is closed with stitches. Most people go home within 1 day of the procedure.

There are 2 kinds of pacemakers used only in medical emergencies. They are:

  • Transcutaneous pacemakers
  • Transvenous pacemakers 

They are not permanent pacemakers.

 

Why the Procedure Is Performed

 

Pacemakers may be used for people who have heart problems that cause their heart to beat too slowly. A slow heartbeat is called bradycardia. Two common problems that cause a slow heartbeat are sinus node disease and heart block.

When your heart beats too slowly, your body and brain may not get enough oxygen. Symptoms may be

  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Fainting spells
  • Shortness of breath

Some pacemakers can be used to stop a heart rate that is too fast (tachycardia) or that is irregular.

Other types of pacemakers can be used in severe heart failure. These are called biventricular pacemakers. They help coordinate the beating of the heart chambers.

Most biventricular pacemakers implanted today can also work as implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD). ICD restore a normal heartbeat by delivering a larger shock when a potentially deadly fast heart rhythm occurs.

 

Risks

 

Possible complications of pacemaker surgery are:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Bleeding
  • Punctured lung. This is rare.
  • Infection
  • Puncture of the heart, which can lead to bleeding around the heart. This is rare.

A pacemaker senses if the heartbeat is above a certain rate. When it is above that rate, the pacemaker will stop sending signals to the heart. The pacemaker can also sense when the heartbeat slows down too much. It will automatically turn back on and start pacing the heart again.

 

Before the Procedure

 

Always tell your health care provider about all the drugs you are taking, even drugs or herbs you bought without a prescription.

The day before your surgery:

  • Shower and shampoo well.
  • You may be asked to wash your whole body below your neck with a special soap.

On the day of the surgery:

  • You may be asked not to drink or eat anything after midnight the night before your procedure. This includes chewing gum and breath mints. Rinse your mouth with water if it feels dry, but be careful not to swallow.
  • Take the drugs you have been told to take with a small sip of water.

Your provider will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

 

After the Procedure

 

You will probably be able to go home after 1 day. You should be able to return to your normal activity level quickly.

Ask your provider how much you can use the arm on the side of your body where the pacemaker was placed. You may be advised not to:

  • Lift anything heavier than 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.75 kilograms)
  • Push, pull, and twist your arm for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Raise your arm above your shoulder for several weeks.

When you leave the hospital, you will be given a card to keep in your wallet. This card lists the details of your pacemaker and has contact information for emergencies. You should always carry this wallet card with you. You should try to remember the name of the pacemaker manufacturer if you can in case you lose your card.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

Pacemakers can help keep your heart rhythm and heart rate at a safe level for you. The pacemaker battery lasts about 6 to 15 years. Your provider will check the battery regularly and replace it when necessary.

 

 

References

Epstein AE, DiMarco JP, Ellenbogen KA, et al. 2012 ACCF/AHA/HRS focused update incorporated into the ACCF/AHA/HRS 2008 guidelines for device-based therapy of cardiac rhythm abnormalities: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on practice guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013;61(3):e6-e75. PMID: 23265327 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23265327.

Olgin JE, Zipes DP. Specific arrhythmias. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 37.

Swerdlow CD, Wang PJ, Zipes DP. Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 36.

 
  • Heartbeat

    Animation

  •  

    Heartbeat - Animation

    The heart is a four-chambered organ with four main vessels, which either bring blood to or carry blood away from the heart. The four chambers of the heart are the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium, and the left ventricle. The great vessels of the heart include the superior and inferior vena cava, which bring blood from the body to the right atrium, the pulmonary artery, which transports blood from the right ventricle to the lungs. The last of the great vessels is the aorta, the body's largest artery, which transports oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to the rest of the body. If we remove some of the tough fibrous coating of the heart and great vessels, you can get a better look at the heart beating. If you look carefully, you can see a series of one-way valves that keep the blood flowing in one direction. If we inject dye into the superior vena cava, you can watch it pass through the heart as it goes through the cardiac cycle. The blood first enters the heart into the right atrium. Blood passes from the right atrium through the tricuspid valve and into the right ventricle. When the right ventricle contracts, the muscular force pushes blood through the pulmonary semilunar valve into the pulmonary artery. The blood then travels to the lungs, where it receives oxygen. Next, it drains out of the lungs via the pulmonary veins, and travels to the left atrium. From the left atrium, the blood is forced through the mitral valve into the critically important left ventricle. The left ventricle is the major muscular pump that sends the blood out to the body systems. When the left ventricle contracts, it forces the blood through the aortic semilunar valves and into the aorta. From here, the aorta and its branches carry blood to all the tissues of the body.

  • Pacemaker

    Pacemaker - illustration

    A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated electronic device which is inserted under the skin to help the heart beat regularly and at an appropriate rate. The pacemaker has leads that travel through a large vein to the heart, where the wires are anchored. The leads send the electrical impulses to the heart to tell it to beat.

    Pacemaker

    illustration

  • Heartbeat

    Animation

  •  

    Heartbeat - Animation

    The heart is a four-chambered organ with four main vessels, which either bring blood to or carry blood away from the heart. The four chambers of the heart are the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium, and the left ventricle. The great vessels of the heart include the superior and inferior vena cava, which bring blood from the body to the right atrium, the pulmonary artery, which transports blood from the right ventricle to the lungs. The last of the great vessels is the aorta, the body's largest artery, which transports oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to the rest of the body. If we remove some of the tough fibrous coating of the heart and great vessels, you can get a better look at the heart beating. If you look carefully, you can see a series of one-way valves that keep the blood flowing in one direction. If we inject dye into the superior vena cava, you can watch it pass through the heart as it goes through the cardiac cycle. The blood first enters the heart into the right atrium. Blood passes from the right atrium through the tricuspid valve and into the right ventricle. When the right ventricle contracts, the muscular force pushes blood through the pulmonary semilunar valve into the pulmonary artery. The blood then travels to the lungs, where it receives oxygen. Next, it drains out of the lungs via the pulmonary veins, and travels to the left atrium. From the left atrium, the blood is forced through the mitral valve into the critically important left ventricle. The left ventricle is the major muscular pump that sends the blood out to the body systems. When the left ventricle contracts, it forces the blood through the aortic semilunar valves and into the aorta. From here, the aorta and its branches carry blood to all the tissues of the body.

  • Pacemaker

    Pacemaker - illustration

    A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated electronic device which is inserted under the skin to help the heart beat regularly and at an appropriate rate. The pacemaker has leads that travel through a large vein to the heart, where the wires are anchored. The leads send the electrical impulses to the heart to tell it to beat.

    Pacemaker

    illustration

A Closer Look

 

    Talking to your MD

     

      Self Care

       

        Tests for Heart pacemaker

         

           

          Review Date: 8/2/2016

          Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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