A heart pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device that senses when your heart is beating irregularly or too slowly. The pacemaker sends a signal to your heart to make sure it beats at the correct pace.
Pacemakers have been used to treat slow heart rates by sensing whether the heart rate falls below a certain rate and then pacing the heart to increase it to a set rate. However, newer rate-responsive pacemakers can alter the heart rate to a faster or slower rate based on your activity.
Cardiac pacemakers can weigh as little as 1 ounce. It consists of two parts: the battery providing the information to control the heartbeat and the wires that connect the heart to the generator and carry the electrical messages to the heart.
Pacemakers may be used in individuals who have heart complications that cause their heart to beat too slowly. Two common problems sourcing a slow heartbeat are heart blockage and sinus node disease.
A good candidate is also an individual a heart rate that is too fast (tachycardia) or that is irregular.
Other types of pacemakers can be used in for those who have severe heart failure. These are called bi-ventricular pacemakers. They match up the beating of both sides of the heart.
A pacemaker is always employed after AV node ablation (destruction of the AV node) to control a normal heart rhythm.
A pacemaker must be implanted under the skin. This procedure usually takes about 1 hour. A small incision is made, usually on the left side of the chest below your collarbone.
The pacemaker generator is placed under the skin. Live x-rays guide the doctor to channel the leads through the incision, into a vein, and into the heart. The leads are connected to the generator. The skin is closed with stitches.
Most patients may be able to go home within one day of the procedure.
There are two kinds of pacemakers: transcutaneous and transvenous. These pacemakers are used only in medical emergencies. They are not permanent.