A pacemaker is a generator (battery and computer circuits) that is implanted under the skin. Usually it is placed in the upper left or right chest area. Electrical wires called leads are attached to the upper and/or lower chambers of the heart. The tips of these leads touch your heart muscle. If the heart rate is too slow, the generator sends an electrical impulse through the leads to the heart muscle to make it beat. Return to Treatments and Programs.
Who needs a pacemaker?
Your doctor will discuss with you whether you need a pacemaker. Pacemakers are used to treat heart rates that are too slow or abnormal heart rhythms that cause fatigue, dizziness or passing-out episodes.
Before the procedure
You will not be allowed to eat or drink the night before your procedure, and you should be prepared to spend one night in the hospital. You will be required to sign a permit, which explains the procedure and its risks.
If you are a diabetic talk to your doctor before the procedure because your medication may need to be adjusted. If you have a dye or shellfish allergy, inform your doctor and the electrophysiology lab staff so they can take special precautions to prevent a reaction.
During the procedure
An intravenous line (IV) will be started in your hand or arm to give you medications during your procedure. Your heart rate, blood pressure and the amount of oxygen in your blood will be monitored. You will receive a medication to help you relax and the area of the incision will be numbed with local anesthetic drugs. You may feel some discomfort during the procedure; if so, please let your nurse or doctor know.
After the procedure
You will receive pain medication for a few days. You will also receive specific instructions directly following the procedure about movement and bathing.
There are certain things that you must avoid. For example, you should not work with or be close to large generators, electric motors, arc welding, strong magnets, radio transmitters, ham radios, and large stereo speakers.
Cellular phones can be used but should remain at least six inches from the pacemaker. You should not undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and radiation therapy in the area of the pacemaker. Your doctor and nurse will review these and other restrictions with you.
Medical alert bracelet or necklace
It is always good to have some type of identifying information on you about your pacemaker. Your local pharmacy will be able to help you get a medical alert bracelets or necklaces. Make sure you include the manufacturer's name of the device on the bracelet. You will also be given temporary identification when you leave the hospital. You will receive the permanent ID via mail. You should carry the ID with you at all times.