A pacemaker is a device placed in your chest or abdomen that sends electrical pulses, helping the heart to beat at a normal rhythm. There are 3 million people living with pacemakers around the world, and 600,000 new pacemakers are implanted each year. These devices are essential to patient health, so it is important to know if your pacemaker has stopped working and what to do about it.
How Your Pacemaker Helps Your Heart
A pacemaker helps people with arrythmias. This includes tachycardia, which is an unusually fast heart rate, and bradycardia, which is an unusually slow heart rate. People with these conditions can struggle with getting enough blood pumped through the body, causing tiredness, difficulty breathing, or even fainting. To avoid this, a pacemaker is used to correct abnormal heart rhythms.
Pacemakers consist of electrodes that monitor your heartbeat. The electrodes transmit this data through wires to a computerized, battery-powered generator. If the electrode detects an abnormal heartbeat, the computer tells the generator to create electrical pulses. These pulses travel through the wires to the heart, helping the heart adjust its rhythm.
Signs and Causes of Pacemaker Malfunction
You can tell if your pacemaker is malfunctioning if you are starting to experience symptoms of arrhythmia. You might have chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or lightheadedness.
There are several reasons why your pacemaker might stop working. These include the following:
- Your condition has changed and it needs to be reprogrammed. Your pacemaker records your heart’s electrical activity. Doctors will use that data to adjust your pacemaker to work most effectively for you.
- There is electromagnetic interference caused by strong magnets or power generators. These do not include simple, everyday devices such as cell phones, microwaves, electric blankets, or TV remotes. Your doctor can help you understand what devices should be avoided.
- The wire between your pacemaker and your heart has broken, impairing communication between the electrodes and the generator.
- The battery has run out.
If your pacemaker fails, you are at increased risk of stroke and heart failure. The risk of stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib) increases by five times. The risk of death-related to cardiac problems doubles. Therefore, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.
What to do if Your Pacemaker is Failing
You can take care of your health and your pacemaker by making sure not to pull, twist, or push the generator. You can also inform doctors and dentists before undergoing any procedures that you have a pacemaker. If you think it is failing, you should contact your cardiologist or electrophysiologist (also known as an EP doctor).
There are some situations when you need to seek emergency care. These include:
- Hiccups that will not stop.
- Twitching muscles in your abdomen or chest.
- Pain, swelling, redness, or drainage at the site of implantation. These could be signs of infection.
- A persistent feeling that your heart is fluttering.
- A sensation that your generator is loose in its pocket under your skin.
If you have concerns about your pacemaker, set up an appointment with Heart Rhythm Consultants in the Sarasota and Tampa Bay area. Our experienced team is ready to help you and answer any questions about your heart health. Speak with a care coordinator today.
About Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A.
The experienced electrophysiologists of Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. have been serving West Florida including Sarasota, Venice, Tampa, Port Charlotte, and Sun City Center for over 15 years. Our specialty cardiologists, or EP doctors, help patients manage their abnormal heart rhythm conditions, whether they suffer from arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation (AFib), or other irregular heartbeats. Dr. Dilip J. Mathew, Dr. Antonio Moretta, and Dr. Rajesh Malik perform arrhythmia treatments like cardiac ablation, cryoablation, and implanting pacemakers or defibrillators. Dr. Mathew has performed nearly 5,000 complex cardiac ablations. View our office locations in Sarasota and Venice, Florida.