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The Basics of Pacemakers: How They Work and Why They're Used

If you have anyone in the family with a history of heart disease, you might have heard about pacemakers. Even the heart specialists will explain to you about their benefits. If not, you might still know about the revolutionary device that has helped hundreds of thousands worldwide live daily despite cardiac ailments. In this blog, we shall consider a detailed assessment of the basics of pacemakers. The blog shall cover how these devices work and when and why they are used.

Introduction to Pacemakers

For anyone with a history of heart disease, pacemakers have been a lifesaver. It is a small, battery-operated device that ensures regular heartbeats by sending electrical impulses to the heart. Due to different heart-related issues, heartbeats can be irregular (also called arrhythmias in medical terms). Pacemakers can evaluate this when the heartbeat is irregular (too fast or slow). It’s a life-changing, often life-saving, technology for many people suffering from heart rhythm disorders. This is why doctors recommend its usage.

The Heart and Its Electrical System

Unlike the standard belief, the human heart’s function is not just to pump blood into the body. It is rather a sophisticated and intricate electrical system. The job of a pacemaker is carried out by a group of cells called sinoatrial (SA) nodes or natural pacemakers. These cells initiate electrical signals that travel throughout the heart, creating and triggering a synchronised contraction of its chambers. Due to this coordinated and synchronised contraction, blood can flow in different parts of the body. Now, any disruption in this natural flow can have a rather devastating impact on the human body. An electrical pacemaker works as a substitute for the natural pacemaker, ensuring that the heart’s natural rhythm is not disrupted.

Understanding Pacemakers: The Mechanics

As described, a pacemaker device is a piece of highly sophisticated machinery that aims to imitate natural pacemaker functions. It consists of two major components: a pulse generator and leads. Talking about the pulse generator, first, it is a small metal case that consists of a battery and electric circuits that monitors and regulates the electrical pulses sent to the heart. Second, leads are insulated wires that deliver these pulses from the generator to the heart. For more details, it is advised that you consult experts from the best heart hospital.

Who Needs a Pacemaker?

Different categories of patients might require pacemaker intervention due to the cardiac issues suffered. First, pacemakers can be highly efficient in treating arrhythmias, conditions characterized by an irregular heartbeat. Second, pacemakers have worked quite well in treating bradycardia, a condition in which a patient’s heart beats too slowly. There are a few patients who experience a long pause between heartbeats, and hence to treat such missed beats, a pacemaker can be an excellent option. However, using a pacemaker depends on many considerations, such as the patient’s overall health, age, and lifestyle. In case you are unsure about the needs, it is advised to consult experts from the best hospital for further details.

The Procedure: Implanting a Pacemaker

Here is a brief procedure by which a pacemaker is implanted in a human body:  
  • Preparation for the implant:

    In this step, the patient is prepared for the implantation, including local anesthesia and possibly mild sedation
  • Accessing the heart:

    The doctors then move forward to make a small incision in the chest or abdomen through which leads are threaded in the vein and guided to the heart. All this is done by using highly advanced imaging techniques.
  • Device installation::

    The other ends of the leads are connected to the pulse generator, which is inserted under the skin of the abdomen or chest, as the case might be.
  • Testing and Monitoring :

    The device is tested, and if everything is working correctly, the incision is closed, and the procedure is completed.

Is it Safe? Possible Complications and Risks

Generally, pacemaker installation is relatively safe and has proved to be lifesaving for many patients. However, there are a few risks which are described as follows:  
  1. There can be general surgical risks as the implanting procedure is quite complicated.
  2. There can be general device complications as it is an electrical machine that can malfunction.
  3. A pacemaker does not allow a patient to carry out high-intensity activities, and staying away from electromagnetic fields is also critical.
  4. The battery needs replacement for every 5-15 year period.
This is why all of the best heart hospitals have a comprehensive rehab facility post implanting the device.

Living With a Pacemaker: Tips for Staying Healthy

There are a few considerations that a patient should take into account after the implantation process is completed. Carrying out regular physical activities is essential, but any contact sport should be avoided as it can affect the device. Awareness of the environment is critical, as electromagnetic solid waves can disrupt the pacemaker device. Furthermore, it is vital to have a healthy lifestyle and constant monitoring of health and devices.

Conclusion: Parul Sevashram Hospital’s Commitment to Patient Care

Pacemakers have become a practical solution to enhance the lifespan of people suffering from heart-related issues. Even though the surgery and procedure are complicated, there are numerous examples of successful surgeries and people leading long and happy life after implanting pacemakers. It is essential to consult a doctor about the process and related risks as it might vary individually.

Written by Parul Sevashram Hospital  |  7 June 2023