Heart contractions are triggered by electrical currents created in your heart from electricity generated in the right upper heart chamber, called the atrium. Specialized tissue creates these electrical impulses that trigger your heartbeat. The electrical system in your heart may not be functioning correctly. If the timing of the impulses is off, your heart may beat dangerously slowly. A pacemaker provides the electricity to keep the heart rhythm safe by sending a signal to the muscle to contract regularly.

Why implant a pacemaker?

If you have an abnormal heart rate or rhythm (arrhythmia) that poses a risk to your health and has not responded to treatments with drug therapy, implanting a pacemaker could be the appropriate treatment. The device will keep your heartbeat and heart rhythm steady. A pacemaker may be implanted to treat several conditions:

  • Fainting spells (syncope)
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thicker, stiff walls of the left ventricle)

How is a pacemaker implanted?

In most cases, there is no need to undergo open-heart surgery. The device is installed through an incision near your collarbone, with the leads inserted through a vein and placed to deliver the needed stimulation. The surgery takes a few hours to complete and is typically performed with local anesthesia and intravenous sedation. You will be awake but thoroughly relaxed during the procedure and will not feel any discomfort.

What does a pacemaker do?

A pacemaker mimics the electrical impulses of a healthy heart. The device has two parts:

  • The pulse generator: The battery and electric circuits that regulate the pulses sent to your heart. 
  • The leads: These are the flexible insulated wires that are placed within the heart chamber (or chambers) to deliver the pulse to regulate your heart rate. They only emit the pulse when your heart slows down, a condition called “bradycardia,” activating the electrical impulses of the pacemaker.

Implanting a pacemaker: Your recovery

You will likely have an overnight stay at the hospital after your surgery. The pacemaker will be custom programmed to treat your individual condition. Arrange another adult to drive you home once you are discharged. Today’s pacemakers are very high-tech, and your heart doctor can monitor your heart remotely, as well as monitoring the remaining battery life. You will need to avoid any vigorous physical exercise for about one month and do not apply any pressure to the area. If you are experiencing any discomfort, over-the-counter painkillers are all you will need.

Types of pacemakers

Depending on your condition, one of three types of pacemakers will be chosen for implantation:

  • Single chamber pacemaker: One lead is placed, either in the upper or lower chambers of the heart.
  • Dual-chamber pacemaker: Two leads are placed, one in the upper heart chamber and one in the lower heart chambers.
  • Bi-ventricular pacemaker: This pacemaker has three leads. One is placed in the upper heart chamber, and one in each of the two lower chambers of the heart. 

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San Diego Cardiac Center: Leading-edge heart specialists

Our specialists at San Diego Cardiac Center offer the highest level of expertise, covering the entire spectrum of advanced cardiac care, including pacemaker implantation with the least invasive method possible. We are progressive in adopting new therapies due to our ongoing clinical research. We frequently gain access to innovative, more successful procedures and medical devices before any other clinic in the region. We are equipped with cutting-edge technology and perform heart procedures that are less invasive and deliver superior outcomes and a faster recovery.

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