Why a Pacemaker?
A small device, no bigger than a two rupee coin, that is placed near the heart under the skin to control the rate of heartbeat is called a pacemaker. It is usually kept in the chest or the abdomen region to help control irregular heart rhythms using electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at the regular rate. The electrical pulses are usually generated by electrodes that will contract the heart muscles. This device is usually placed in the patient’s chest when either his natural pacemaker fails to function properly or if he suffers from a heart block.
The problem with the rate of rhythm of heartbeat is called as arrhythmias. The heart of a patient suffering from this condition will
either beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia) or at an irregular pace. As a result of this, the heart will not be able to pump the required amount of blood to the patient’s body resulting in symptoms such as breathlessness, tiredness and fainting. Severe condition of arrhythmias can also result in damaging vital organs, unconsciousness or even death. Arrhythmias is usually caused due to normal aging of the heart.
Other medical condition that may is require a pacemaker care heart muscle damage caused as a result of a heart attack, some medications and genetic conditions that may disrupt the heartbeat. Irrespective of the underlying cause of an irregular heartbeat, a pacemaker has the capacity to fix it.
Pacemakers can either be permanent or temporary depending on the patient’s issue. Permanent pacemakers are implanted to control prolonged heart rhythm problems. Whereas, temporary pacemakers are used to treat slow-heart beats caused due to an overdose of medicine, heart surgery or heart attack. It is also used during emergencies until a doctor implants a permanent pacemaker.
Following are some of the characteristics of a pacemaker -
- Regulate a slow heart rhythm
- Control a fast heart rhythm
- In the case of atrial fibrillation, it makes sure the ventricles contract normally if the atria are trembling instead of beating
- Coordinate the electrical signals between the ventricles
- Prevent critical arrhythmias caused by long QT syndrome
- Monitor and record heart’s electrical activity and rate of heart beat
- Monitor breathing rate, blood temperature and other related factors
- Adjust heartbeat rate corresponding to the patient’s physical activity
Placing a pacemaker requires a minor surgery usually performed in a hospital. The patient will first be given a medicine through the IV line that will relax him and make him sleepy. The area in which the pacemaker will be placed will be numbed to prevent pain. The doctor will then use a needle to thread the pacemaker wires into the vein to correctly situate it in the heart. The doctor will do so with the help of a x-ray movie of all the wires that pass through the vain and into the heart. Once the wires are in place, the doctor will slip the pacemaker through a small cut in the chest and place it right under the skin. The wires will then be connected to the pacemaker and the doctor will test it to make sure it works perfectly. The cut will immediately be sued and the patient will be kept under observation overnight by the health care team.
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