A pacemaker is an electrically charged medical device. Your surgeon implants it under your skin to help manage irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias.
Modern pacemakers have two parts. One part, called the pulse generator, contains the battery and the electronics that control your heartbeat. The other part is one or more leads to send electrical signals to your heart. Leads are small wires that run from the pulse generator to your heart.
Pacemakers generally treat two types of arrhythmias:
Depending on your condition, you might have one of the following types of pacemakers.
Before receiving a pacemaker, you’ll need several tests. These tests can ensure that a pacemaker is the right choice for you.
If a pacemaker is right for you, you’ll need to plan for the surgery. Your doctor will give you complete instructions on how to prepare.
During the pacemaker surgery one or more flexible, insulated wires are inserted into a major vein under or near your collarbone and guided to your heart using X-ray images. One end of each wire is secured to the appropriate position in your heart, while the other end is attached to the pulse generator, which is usually implanted under the skin beneath your collarbone.
You should be able to return to normal physical activities soon after surgery.
As a precaution, it's usually recommended that strenuous activities are avoided for around 4 to 6 weeks after having a pacemaker fitted.
After this, you should be able to do most activities and sports.
You'll be able to feel the pacemaker, but you'll soon get used to it. It may seem a bit heavy at first, and may feel uncomfortable when you lie in certain positions.
You'll need to attend regular check-ups to make sure your pacemaker is working properly. Most pacemakers store information about your natural heart rhythms.
When you have follow-up appointments, your doctor can retrieve this information and use it to check how well your heart and the pacemaker are working.
A person is likely to feel some pain or tenderness around the area of insertion, but this should be temporary. Other risks involve:
Having a pacemaker implanted is usually a very safe procedure with a low risk of complications.
The biggest concern is the pacemaker losing its ability to control the heartbeat, either because it malfunctions or the wire moves out of the correct position.
It's sometimes possible to reprogramme the pacemaker to fix a malfunction using wireless signals.
But further surgery may be needed if the pacemaker moves out of position.