July 27, 2017

Pacemaker Placement

A pacemaker is a small device that is placed in the chest to help control irregular heart rhythms. Using electrical signals, the pacemaker prompts the heart to beat at a normal rate.

What is an arrythmia?

An arrythmia, or irregular heartbeat, are problems with the rhythm or rate of the heartbeat. Arrythmias include the heart beating too fast, too slow, or beating with an irregular pattern.

A heart rate that is too slow is called bradycardia (less than 50 beats per minute).
A heart rate that is too fast is called tachycardia (more than 100 beats per minute).

Why do I need a pacemaker?

Pacemakers are commonly recommended for those with bradycardia (slow heart rate) and heart block. Heart block can be a result of aging, damage from a heart attack, or other problems that block the electrical activity of your heart. A pacemaker will be recommended for:

  • Treatment of arrhythmia, to help regulate your heartbeat after a surgical procedure
  • Those who have problems with fainting or slowing of heartbeat
  • Damage due to aging or heart disease
  • Occasionally children and people with congenital heart disease, sometimes after a heart transplant

Are there tests for arrythmias?

After reviewing your medical history and doing a physical exam, the doctor will use several tests to detect arrythmias.

Commonly used tests include:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiography
  • Stress test

Pacemaker surgery

Placement of a pacemaker requires minor surgery. Usually, patients who immediately undergo heart surgery will have a pacemaker placed right after their operation while under sedation. The surgeon will insert a needle into a large vein near the shoulder. Using the needle, the surgeon will thread the pacemaker wires through the vein to its proper place on the heart.

Once these wires are in place, a small incision will be made into the skin on the chest or abdomen. The pacemaker box will be slipped into the small cut, right under the skin, and connected to the wires that lead to your heart. The pacemaker box contains its own battery. When the pacemaker has been tested to make sure it is working properly, the incision is sewn up and the pacemaker left in the chest. This surgery will take 1-2 hours.

Goals of pacemaker placement surgery:

  • Restoration of normal heart pumping action
  • Increasing heart rate, when required, more activity
  • Efficient heart pumping