A pacemaker is an electronic device that helps the heart beat at the proper rhythm. It is typically used in individuals who have an arrhythmia that causes the heart to beat more slowly than it normally should. A pacemaker may be necessary for an individual with bradycardia (a slow heart rate), heart failure or syncope (fainting due to low heart rate). Though atrial fibrillation is known for causing a fast or chaotic heart rate, it can also sometimes cause the heart to beat too slowly, and a pacemaker can help individuals in this situation, as well.
More About Pacemakers
A pacemaker is a very small device. It weighs about an ounce and is the size of a big watch face. The insertion of a pacemaker does not require a major surgical procedure. When installed, it’s inserted into the body below the collarbone. The pacemaker has wires called leads that are attached to the heart on one end and the pacemaker at the other end. When the leads detect a slow heart rate, the pacemaker sends electrical impulses to the heart to speed it up. The settings of the pacemaker need to be checked periodically, but this can even be done with a phone with some modern pacemakers. The batteries of a pacemaker also need to be replaced every five to 10 years.
Types of Pacemakers
There are a few different types of pacemakers. Single chamber pacemakers have a lead that only goes to one chamber of the heart, while dual chamber pacemakers have two leads that are connected to two chambers. Biventricular pacemakers send leads to three chambers of the heart, most often for individuals with heart failure. There are also rate responsive pacemakers that can adjust the pace of the heart based on the individual’s level of activity at the time.
SOURCES: Heart Rhythm Society.