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Pacemakers – Simple and Complex

What is a Pacemaker?

A Pacemaker is a small electrical device that sends electrical pulses to your heart to keep it beating regularly. A Pacemaker can significantly improve quality of life in those with a slow heart rate.

The Pacemaker will be fitted during a small surgical procedure by a Consultant Cardiologist who will place it under the skin near the collarbone on the left side of the chest. The Pacemaker Box links to a wire that is guided through a blood vessel to the heart.

Why would I need a permanent Pacemaker?

The Pacemaker consists of a pulse generator, which has a battery and tiny computer circuit with one or more wires leading from it, attaching to your heart.

When the signals that control the pumping of the heart become disrupted, it can lead to a number of potentially dangerous heart conditions including:

  • An abnormally slow heartbeat (bradycardia) or abnormally quick heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Heart block
  • Cardiac arrest

If the Pacemaker senses that your heart has missed a beat, or indeed beating too slowly, it will send a signal at a steady rate through the wire and to the heart. Most modern pacemakers fitted include a special sensor to recognise body movement and breathing rate and allows them to speed up the discharge rate when the body is active.

Risks with a Pacemaker

Any electrical equipment or appliance that produces a strong electromagnetic field can interfere with a Pacemaker but most household electrical equipment such as microwave ovens and hair dryers won’t be a problem if they’re used 15cm or more away from your Pacemaker.

If you feel dizzy or feel your heart beating faster whilst using an electric appliance it is important to move away to allow your heartbeat to return to normal.

A consultant’s biggest concern with fitting a pacemaker is the Pacemaker losing the ability to control the heartbeat due to a malfunction with the Pacemaker itself or the attached wire. A Pacemaker can sometimes be reprogrammed to fix a malfunction using wireless signals.

Other Complications include:

  • Infection at the Pacemaker box or on the electrical lead
  • Bruising at the insertion site
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
  • Pacemaker syndrome-if your own heart beat and the Pacemaker interfere with each other
  • Diaphragm twitching

Other types of Pacemakers

Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs)

Similar to a Pacemaker, an ICD sends a larger electrical shock to the heart which is essentially ‘rebooting’ the heart to get it pumping again.

An ICD is often used as a preventative measure for those who are potentially at risk of cardiac arrest in the future.

If the heart is being at a potentially dangerous abnormal rate, the ICD will sense this and deliver an electrical shock to the heart, helping the heart to return to a normal rhythm.

Cardiac Resynchronisation Pacemakers (CRT)

A CRT is used to help improve the hearts rhythm and the symptoms associated with an arrhythmia. A Cardiologist implants the CRT in the same place as a simple Pacemaker and three wires are used to monitor heart rate, detect heart rate irregularities and emit tiny pulses of electricity to correct them. A CRT is used to ‘resynchronise’ the heart.

Pacemakers Specialists

Our Heart Health specialists at OneWelbeck in London are leaders in their field. They are equipped with the latest diagnostic medical technology at custom-built, day-case facilities to investigate any symptoms and ensure you receive the best available care.

Contact Us

To speak with a specialist about Pacemakers, contact our team today.
We are available from Monday to Friday: 8am – 8pm.

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