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How Does A Pacemaker Work?

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How Does A Pacemaker Work?

Cardiology | by Dr. Rakesh Sarkar | Published on 06/12/2022


What Is a Pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a small device that is placed in your body to support the electrical system in the heart. The device is usually implanted via surgery to stabilise arithmetic heartbeat to prevent severe heart conditions. 

Pacemakers consist of a battery and their informational system which controls the heart chambers. The signals are sent through wires or leads that are connected to various points in your heart. However, modern pacemakers are installed using catheter-based procedures. The whole system works to maintain the flow of blood to the brain and other parts of the body.

What Are the Different Types of Pacemakers?

The doctor may recommend either a permanent or a temporary pacemaker depending on the medical health and severity of the condition. It is important to identify the heart problems so that the specific type of pacemaker can be used for effective treatment. Pacemaker types include the following - 

  • Leadless Pacemaker
  • Single chamber Pacemaker
  • Dual chamber Pacemaker
  • Biventricular Pacemaker

Who Needs a Pacemaker?

A pacemaker is required when the heart rhythm of the individual is too slow or pauses frequently. The Sinoatrial (SA) node is considered the heart’s natural pacemaker that produces electrical impulses that causes your heart to beat. In case of any defect, the heart beats irregularly causing severe health issues.

The doctor recommends a pacemaker when the conventional methods are ineffective in stabilizing the heart’s rhythm. While the device may not be recommended for everyone, pacemakers for certain medical conditions such as bradycardia are available for patients who need single chamber pacing only. 

It is only after the diagnosis, the doctor may recommend an artificial pacemaker. Here are some symptoms which are associated with heart conditions that may require the installation of a pacemaker - 

Consult a healthcare professional in case these symptoms persist for a long period to avoid the risk of heart failure. Discuss your condition to get the best treatment for your heart.

What are the different conditions treated with a pacemaker? 

A pacemaker generates electrical impulses which help the heart pump blood to the other part of the body properly. Most pacemakers have a sensing mode that stabilizes the heart rhythm in case the heartbeat is too fast (tachycardia) or if the heartbeat is too slow (bradycardia). Apart from this, here are a few conditions where a pacemaker is used - 

Is a Pacemaker a Serious Surgery?

Depending on the medical health of the patient and the severity of the condition, the procedure to install a pacemaker can be significate. The goal of the procedure is to stabilize the heart rhythm and improve blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body. Implanting a pacemaker may involve certain risks like any other major surgery. However, the benefits of a pacemaker are far greater than the risks of the procedure. Here are some surgical procedures to install a pacemaker - 

  • Catheter-based procedure 
  • Transvenous method
  • Epicardial surgery

Discuss your health and risks with the doctor along with the possibility of risks associated with the procedure. You must also inform your doctor of any ongoing medications or medical conditions before the procedure to ensure a safe surgery. 

What Are the Symptoms of a Failing Pacemaker?

Pacemakers are reliable devices that can work for a decade without causing any major problems. However, in rare cases, the device may fail due to problems depending on the patient’s medical condition, daily lifestyle, physical activities, etc. in addition, a pacemaker may fail to function due to the following reasons - 

  • Worn-out battery
  • Wiring issues between the pacemaker and the heart cause an electronic circuit failure
  • Misplacement of a pacemaker
  • High potassium in the blood causes electrolyte problems
  • Electromagnetic interference from certain devices

The patient may experience certain symptoms after the procedure which may be due to a failing pacemaker. Here are some signs that indicate issues during pacemaker surgery - 

  • Allergic reactions
  • Blood clots
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Frequent palpitations
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Slow or fast heart rate, or a combination of both
  • Constant twitching of muscles in the chest or abdomen

How to Avoid Getting a Pacemaker?

While there are no alternatives to pacemaker surgery, certain lifestyle modifications can reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat. The key is to keep your heart rhythm under control with the help of the heart’s natural pacemaker. In case of mild symptoms, the doctor may recommend medications to stabilize your heartbeat. 

Controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels are majorly known to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is also crucial to maintain a balanced diet and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can increase the health of the heart. In addition, there are some lifestyle changes that can improve your heart health and help you avoid a pacemaker - 

  • Quit smoking & consuming alcohol 
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Beware of stimulants used in cough and cold medications that can cause irregular heartbeats
  • Get a good sleep
  • Keep a healthy weight by being physically active
  • Manage stress

Talk to your physician in case your symptoms are mild 

FAQs

How long can you live with a pacemaker?

The life expectance of the person with the pacemaker depends on several factors like age, heart health, any existing medical condition, etc. A person with ICDs and pacemaker devices generally lasts for 5 to even 20 years under normal circumstances. However, the percentage of life expectancy decreases with increasing years. 

Can your heart stop if you have a pacemaker?

In case the pacemaker malfunctions due to certain reasons, the individual may experience sudden cardiac arrest which can cause death to the heart muscles. The risk of cardiac problems due to a malfunctioned pacemaker can increase the chances of death to two times. Keep in touch with your doctor in case you are experiencing symptoms of a failing pacemaker. 

Can you fly with a pacemaker?

You can travel safely with a pacemaker as long as you are taking the precautionary measures advised by your doctor. However, take 2-3 days of rest after the procedure before getting on an aeroplane.

Will a pacemaker give me more energy?

Installing a pacemaker helps the patient get relief from dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting. This may lead to a feeling of increased energy in some patients. 

Can you use a microwave if you have a pacemaker?

Yes, you can use microwave ovens if you have a pacemaker. Common household electronics like TV remotes, heating pads, electric blankets, etc. do not interfere with the working of the pacemaker. However, be careful while using cell phones and other electronics and do not keep them in your chest pockets. 

Can you swim if you have a pacemaker?

It is generally advised not to engage in physical activities involving the upper body for 4 to 12 weeks to help with the healing after the procedure. In addition, electromagnetic interference due to ICD shocks can be dangerous while swimming. Consult your doctor before engaging in similar activities to avoid complications.