What are Pacemakers?

By  , Expert Content
Jan 03, 2013

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A pacemaker is a small electronic device (as small as a pocket watch), that is used if there is problem with rate and rhythm of the heart. It is implanted in the chest or abdomen surgically by a doctor who specialises in it. It can monitor the heart’s rate (how fast it beats) and rhythm (the pattern in which it beats) and correct any abnormality of rate or rhythm by electrical stimulation of the heart.

How does a pacemaker work?

Pacemakers are implanted in a hospital in an operating theatre by a doctor who specialises in this procedure. Pacemaker has a battery, a computerised generator, and wires with sensors called electrodes on one end. The battery is the source of power for the generator. The wires have electrodes and they connect the generator to the heart. The electrodes help to detect your heart's electrical activity and send data through the wires to the computer in the generator.  If abnormal heart rate is detected by the pacemaker then the generator sends electrical pulses to your heart to normalize the heart beat.

Many of the modern pacemakers can store information about the state of the battery and the performance of the pulse generator. After a pacemaker is inserted, regular follow-up visits are required. During the follow-up visits you will be connected to a heart monitor and pacemaker programmer to check if the pacemaker is functioning optimally. Your doctor will make changes in the pacemaker settings as needed so that it functions optimally and longevity of the pacemaker is maximized.

Who needs a pacemaker

A pacemaker may be used for a variety of reasons, but most often it is used to treat bradycardia (a condition in which the heart rate becomes low) or a group of conditions called arrhythmias (a condition in which the heart's rhythm becomes abnormal). Some other conditions for which pacemaker are inserted include:

  • Sick sinus syndrome: This is a condition in which the ability of sinus node's to set the correct pace for your heartbeat is damaged.
  • Atrial fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia (a disease in which the rhythm of the heart is disturbed) which can cause the heart to beat very fast.
  • Medications: To correct low heart rate caused by certain medicines, such as beta blockers.
  • Long QT syndrome: In this there is a problem with electrical signal transmission in the heart which increases risk for dangerous arrhythmias.
  • Other causes: Certain types of congenital heart disease or after heart transplants.

Pacemakers are effective in reducing symptoms of dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms caused by slow or too fast heart rate and can considerably improve the quality of life.



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