A pacemaker is a small electrical device that can help maintain a regular heartbeat.
Your heart has a natural electrical system that controls your heartbeat. The control unit is a cluster of cells called the sinus node. This natural pacemaker creates regular electrical impulses that prompt the heart muscle to contract and relax its pumping chambers at the right rate to pump blood throughout your body. A system of specialized muscle fibers conducts the electrical impulses to the correct parts of the heart.
But the control center or electrical pathways can be damaged by heart disease or a heart attack, and aging can also take a toll. The result can be a heartbeat that is too slow, resulting in excessive fatigue, dizziness, fainting or even death.
Implanting a pacemaker can restore the system's rhythm.
An artificial pacemaker is a very small electronic pulse generator about the size of a quarter that is implanted under the skin and connected to the heart by very thin electrical wires. Today's pacemakers are marvels of medical engineering. The first pacemakers, while a breakthrough, were much larger and worked at a single rate. Today's "rate responsive" pacemakers monitor the body's activity and can alter the heartbeat rate to the needs of the body. They are also programmable to meet the needs of each individual user.
How a pacemaker works
When cardiologists at the Phoebe Heart Center implant a pacemaker, the process usually takes about two hours. In the catheterization lab, one or more flexible, insulated wires (or leads) is threaded through a major vein in much the same manner as other catheterization procedures. One major difference is that the leads are inserted in a vein under the patient's collarbone, whereas the majority of other cath procedures use a blood vessel in the groin area. The ends of the leads are inserted through the vein into the areas of the heart where their electrical impulses will stimulate the heart to beat.
The leads are attached to the pacemaker pulse generator, which is inserted under the skin beneath the collarbone.
Cardiologists at Phoebe were the first to bring pacemaker technology to Southwest Georgia.
As the leading cardiac center in the region, heart doctors at Phoebe were the first in the region to provide this medical technology to their patients. As pacemakers have dramatically shrunk in size and grown in sophistication, our cardiologists have remained on the cutting edge of these dramatic advances.
For more information about heart treatment options or to schedule an appointment, please call the Phoebe Heart and Vascular Center at (229) 312-4438.