A pacemaker is a sophisticated electronic device which can monitor the heart’s rate (how fast it beats) and rhythm (the pattern in which it beats), and provides electrical stimulation when there is any abnormality of the rate or rhythm of the heart (it does not beat or beats too slowly or beats irregularly).
Who needs a pacemaker?
A pacemaker is inserted for many reasons, but the two common causes include bradycardia and heart block.
- Bradycardia: Bradycardia is a medical condition in which the heart beats slower than normal. A pacemaker can improve symptoms of dizziness and fatigue caused because of slow heart rhythm, helping you to enjoy a better quality of life. The two common causes of bradycardia include sick sinus syndrome and AV block. Sick sinus syndrome is a disease of the sinoatrial (SA) node, the natural pacemaker of the heart. The SA node generates heart beat in a healthy heart.
- Heart block: This is a disorder in which the electrical signal transmission in the heart is slowed or disrupted. Heart block can be caused because of aging, damage to the heart from a heart attack, or any other condition that disrupts the heart's electrical activity. In addition it may be caused by certain nerve and muscle disorders including muscular dystrophy. AV block is the most common cause of heart block. In AV block the upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) fail to beat in a coordinated manner. In a healthy heart the upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) beat in a co-ordinated manner.
In both these situations the heart might not pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Significant decrease in heart rate may affect blood flow to the brain, causing light headedness and (sometimes) fainting.
Pacemaker may also be recommended for:
- 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. This can cause slower than normal heartbeats or longer pauses between heartbeats or frequent switch between slow and fast rhythms. Aging or heart disease can cause sick sinus syndrome.
- Atrial fibrillation: Pacemaker may be inserted after you've had a medical procedure to treat atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia (a disease in which the rhythm of the heart is disturbed).
- Medications: Use of certain heart medicines, such as beta blockers can slow your heartbeat too much. A pacemaker can help to regulate your heartbeat when you are on these types of medication.
- Long QT syndrome: This is a problem with electrical signal transmission in the heart, which increases risk for dangerous arrhythmias. A pacemaker can help to regulate your heartbeat.
- Other causes: Pacemaker may be inserted for certain types of congenital heart disease or after heart transplants. A person of any age group (children, teens, and adults) can be considered for pacemaker.