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A cardiologist holds a stethoscope to check her patient's heart rate and rhythm.

What are pacemakers?

Your heart has its own electrical system, telling the muscle when to contract and beat. When this system malfunctions, your heart squeezes either in the wrong order or too weakly to provide enough blood to your body. 

Pacemakers provide a solution to this problem by sending their own electrical impulses to the heart. A pacemaker is usually placed through a surgical procedure and prevents problems that can disrupt or endanger your life.

What are the signs you need a cardiac pacemaker?

  • Chest pain
  • Tachycardia (a rapid heartbeat)
  • Bradycardia (a slower heartbeat)
  • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, nausea, or fainting
  • Swelling in your ankles, legs, and abdomen 
  • Frequent urination at night

What conditions does a cardiac pacemaker treat?

Are there different types of pacemakers?

  • A leadless pacemaker is a small pacemaker inserted using a catheter that attaches to the inner wall of the heart. 
  • A single-chamber pacemaker attaches to one chamber of the heart using a single wire. 
  • A dual-chamber pacemaker uses two wires, attached to two chambers of your heart. 
  • A biventricular pacemaker attaches two wires to the heart’s ventricles and one wire to the right upper chamber.

What are the benefits of a cardiac pacemaker?

  • Alleviating symptoms caused by heart rhythm problems like chest pain and nausea 
  • Hindering symptoms caused by arrhythmias like fainting
  • Preventing your heart from stopping

What are the risk factors of having a pacemaker implanted?

  • Allergic reactions. Some medications, when paired with the materials in a pacemaker, can cause an allergic reaction. 
  • Blood clots. If your blood is more likely to clot, your physician may prescribe blood-thinning medication. 
  • Pacemaker malfunctions. For a period of time after implanting a pacemaker, there is the possibility of it being jostled or breaking free from its position. Your physician will likely limit your physical activity to prevent this from happening. 
  • Other malfunctions. Your physician will give you specific instructions on machinery or other devices to avoid in order to prevent any electrical interference
  • Unexpected heart rhythm problems. Sometimes a pacemaker can cause other heart rhythm problems. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Palpitations are sensations you feel when your heart rate speeds up, or when you can feel it thumping in your chest. They are common, and causes include exercise, stress, and caffeine. Arrhythmias are disruptions in regular heart rhythm and can have more serious symptoms, such as chest pain, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. If you believe you are experiencing arrhythmias, schedule an appointment with a St. Luke’s Health cardiologist.

Also referred to as AFib, atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that can cause other heart conditions such as blood clots, stroke, and heart failure. Physicians may treat AFib with medication, recommending lifestyle changes, or by diagnosing and treating underlying conditions that cause irregular heartbeats.

Caring for your heart health is the best and easiest way to prevent heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet, staying active, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding stress can keep your heart strong.

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