What Is a Pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a small device that sends electronic impulses to restore the heart’s rhythm and maintain a regular heart rate. Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmias, which are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During arrhythmias, the heart can beat too fast or too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. When the heart isn’t able to pump enough blood to the body it may cause symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and fainting. Severe arrhythmias can damage the body’s vital organs and may even cause loss of consciousness or death.

A heartbeat that beats faster than the normal 60 to 100 beats per minute at rest is called a tachycardia. There are normal rapid heartbeats called sinus tachycardia that people experience with excitement, anxiety, stress, or exercise. If the rapid heartbeat occurs while resting or without logical cause, it is considered abnormal.

A slow or irregular heart rhythm is commonly less than 60 beats per minute and is called bradycardia. At this rate, the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood through the body during normal activity or exercise.

Why Do I Need a Pacemaker?

You may need a pacemaker if the electrical activity of your heart is abnormal and you have abnormal heart rhythm. Pacemakers are also used to treat syncope (unexplained fainting spells), heart failure and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and sometimes used after heart surgery.

Types of Pacemakers

Permanent or long term pacemaker

An incision is made in your neck or chest and the leads are guided through a vein into your heart, and attached to the generator. The generator is kept in your pocket or under your skin. This type of pacemaker you will have forever.

Transcutaneous or external pacemaker

This is used in emergency situations when your heart is beating too slowly. To speed up your heart rate your caregiver will apply small sticky patches to your chest and leads are attached to the patches. The end of the leads has a pacemaker with dials on it. These allow your caregiver to immediately adjust the settings of the pacemaker.

Trasvenous or temporary pacemaker

The leads are guided into your heart through an incision in your neck or chest. The generator is worn outside the body in a small pouch and is carried with you at all times.

HIS bundle pacing

HIS bundle pacing uses your heart’s own wiring system to activate a normal rhythm. It uses pacemaker leads placed at the HIS bundle in your heart instead of at the right ventricle. This is a new approach which can prevent pacing-induced cardiomyopathy and help patients with existing heart failure.

Left bundle branch pacing

Similar to HIS bundle pacing, left bundle branch pacing uses your heart’s own wiring system to achieve rhythm. This approach can help patients with left bundle branch block.

If you believe you may be suffering from a heart rhythm disorder, speak to your doctor about visiting the cardiac electrophysiologists of Heart Rhythm Consultants for more information, testing and treatment options including Pacemakers.

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