Key Points about Pacemaker Therapy

  • A pacemaker is a small device that monitors if your heart is beating irregularly. 
  • Small wires that connect to your heart send signals to assist in creating a regular heartbeat.
  • Having a pacemaker implanted is a relatively quick procedure, lasting around an our in general.

Overview

A pacemaker is used to stabilize your heart rhythm. It sends an electrical impulse through your heart to help your heart’s muscles contract and move blood more effectively.

Candidates for pacemaker therapy

People who have irregular or slow heartbeats are candidates for pacemaker therapy. Pacemakers generally treat two types of heart conditions:

  • Tachycardia, where your heartbeat is too fast
  • Bradycardia, where your heartbeat is too slow

These conditions can cause your body to not receive the correct amount of blood. This can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain / damage in your vital organs

Risks associated with pacemaker therapy

The main risks associated with pacemaker therapy come from the surgery, not the pacemaker itself. Those risks can include:

  • Reaction to the sedative used for surgery
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising around the implant site
  • Infection surrounding the implant site

Preparation for pacemaker therapy

Before starting pacemaker therapy, your doctor will administer several tests on your heart. These can include:

  • An echocardiogram (measures the size and thickness of your heart muscle)
  • Holter monitoring (Tracking your heart rhythm for 24 hours)
  • A exercise /stress test (Examining your heart rate while exercising)

Based on the results from the test, if your doctor thinks pacemaker therapy is the right fit for you, they’ll set up a time to implant the pacemaker. You’ll likely be asked to not eat 24 hours prior to the surgery as well as stop taking certain medications.

Duration of pacemaker therapy

A surgeon will implant a pacemaker under the skin in your chest. The procedure is relatively quick and, in most cases, lasts around an hour. You will be given a sedative before the procedure begins.

Recovery from pacemaker therapy

After the surgery, your doctor will test the pacemaker and ensure it is programmed correctly. In follow up appointments, your doctor may reprogram the pacemaker as needed.

For a few weeks after the pacemaker surgery, your doctor will recommend avoiding any activity that will raise your heartrate.

Following the surgery, your doctor will work with you to set up an automated heartrate monitoring system so they can view data. This can either be done via a phone line or mobile app.

Advances in pacemaker technology have made them less sensitive to electrical devices. Even so, it’s a good idea to avoid:

  • Close contact between a cell phone and your pacemaker
  • Being in close contact with certain appliances for extended periods of time
  • Exposures to metal detectors or high-voltage transformers