If you have been told that your heart rate is very low, Bradycardia, you may be recommended for pacemaker implantation. A pacemaker is one of the best-known devices used in cardiology. It is simply a battery-operated device that monitors heartbeats and keeps the heart pacing fast enough. It is comprised of two distinct parts. The pulse generator contains the battery that generates the electrical impulses to fire the heart and leads or wires that connect this battery to the heart itself.
Why Would I Need a Pacemaker?
In the upper right atrium – one of the heart’s four chambers, is the body’s natural pulse generator, the SA node. Often, due to several irregularities, including cardiovascular disease, prior heart attack, congenital or genetic issues, or simply just age, the SA node begins to fire more slowly or erratically. When this happens and the irregularity is severe enough, a pacemaker is a long-term option that allows the heart to beat normally. Ultimately, the purpose of the pacemaker is to prevent long-term heart disease and restore the quality of life in a patient who may be suffering from the symptoms of not getting enough blood to the brain.
Implanting the Pacemaker
While there are external pacemakers, most pacemakers are implanted into the body. The pulse generator is usually placed within the chest muscle under a flap of skin. From there, wires are connected to the heart, and the pacemaker is activated. The pacemaker can be monitored periodically and adjusted if it is not offering the proper pacing.
New technology has brought about the advent of leadless pacemakers. These are self-contained devices with tiny hooks implanted into a ventricle or lower Chamber of the heart and do not have the wires to the heart. These are implanted using advanced catheter technology that requires a small incision in the groin, arm, or neck through which a catheter is passed. The catheter is threaded into the heart through a vein and into the appropriate chamber. The leadless pacemaker is then deployed. Learn more about leadless pacemakers
The Risks of a Pacemaker Implantation
Pacemaker implantation is relatively straightforward and comes with low risk, especially compared to the dangers of living with Bradycardia. We look for any infection or blood loss at the implantation site in the chest muscle. There is also the possibility of the wires malfunctioning or breaking, which would require extraction and replacement. Dr. Moretta will speak to you about the risks specific to your situation during a consultation.
Living With a Pacemaker
Some may believe that having a pacemaker will change their life significantly. However, this is not always true. However, it is essential that you continue your medications and avoid any activities that may interfere with the pacing of your heart.
After the pacemaker is implanted, You should give it plenty of time to settle while allowing your body to heal. Regular activity will be resumed within a week or two after surgery but speak to your electrophysiologist about when you can return to more strenuous activities.
As for whether the pacemaker will be intrusive, this is typically not the case. Early on, you may be aware of the bulge in your chest due to the pacemaker implantation. However, it will become a part of your normal routine over time. Further, you will not feel the pacemaker doing its job. It will simply be supplementing your heart’s natural rhythm. However, you will feel a greater sense of well-being as the worst effects of Brady cardia will no longer be in your life.
The pacemaker will last anywhere from 8 to 12 years. This largely depends on how hard it must work on pacing your heart. However, natural variances in the life of the battery may shorten or lengthen its life. You will be notified before the expiration of the battery that another pulse generator needs to be replaced. Again, this is a relatively simple procedure with few side effects and an even faster recovery than the initial pacemaker implantation.
Some devices may interfere with your pacemaker. These may include anything with a strong electromagnetic field. For example, if you have an MRI, you must inform your doctor about your pacemaker. Similarly, your pacemaker may trigger metal detectors, so be sure to have your pacemaker ID card with you, especially if traveling or entering buildings with a metal detection system.
Based on our experience with patients and their pacemakers, we have devised a comprehensive follow-up protocol to ensure that the pacemaker works appropriately and that we stay abreast of any potential battery issues. Please be sure to follow up and maintain that schedule. If you are moving out of town, find a qualified cardiologist or electrophysiologist who can continue with your pacemaker maintenance.
If you experience any signs of an emergency or believe you have a heart attack, call 911 without delay. Similarly, you should contact us if you have any difficulty breathing, get very dizzy or faint or if you gain weight or see swelling in your lower extremities.
For more information about pacemakers and to see if you are suffering from Bradycardia that requires a pacemaker, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Moretta, where you will get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.