Pacemakers are tiny devices placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. They are commonly used to treat arrhythmias, which are irregular electrical impulses that can cause the heart to beat too quickly, too slowly, or with erratic and dangerous rhythms. Our cardiology specialists explain.
Your heart runs on electricity
Your heart has its own built-in electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm with which the muscles of your heart contract to keep it beating. This system sends an electrical impulse downwards from the top of your heart, starting in a group of specialized cells called the sinus or sinoatrial node. This impulse then activates and controls the timing of your heart activity. In a healthy heart, these impulses first signal the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) to contract, which pumps blood into the two lower chambers (the ventricles). The ventricles in turn contract and pump blood through the arteries to the rest of the body. What we know as a “heartbeat” is the combination of these two contractions.
When the electrical signals that control these heartbeats become erratic, undue pressure can be placed on either the atria or the ventricles, or both, which can lead to cardiac arrest if not treated. A pacemaker generates its own stable electrical signals, and seeks to artificially “even out” and stabilize the erratic signals that are leading to irregular heartbeats. Pacemakers can be temporary or permanent, and are remarkably reliable and comfortable to wear. The pacemaker itself is smaller than a matchbox, light, and is commonly implanted just under your collarbone, with one or more electrical leads connected to your heart through a vein.
Who needs a pacemaker?
Pacemakers are most often used to treat bradycardia (a slower-than-normal heartbeat) or heart block (a condition in which the electrical signal is disrupted or slowed down as it moves through the heart). They can also be prescribed if aging has damaged your sinus node’s ability to “keep time” properly, if you’ve had other medical procedures to treat arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation, if you are required to take certain heart medications such as beta blockers (which slow the heartbeat), and for a number of other heart conditions. Pacemakers can also be used to treat congenital heart defects and for those who have had heart transplants.
Implanting a pacemaker is not a light decision, so before your heart care specialists in Hudson County recommend one, they will carefully consider not only the state of your heart as measured in diagnostic tests, but also arrhythmia symptoms such as unexplained fainting or dizziness and shortness of breath. They will also consider your overall health, whether or not you have a history of heart disease, and what medications you are taking.
How do I find out more?
If you have been diagnosed as having an irregular heartbeat, the best way to learn whether a pacemaker is right for you is to contact trusted cardiology specialists in Hudson County, and have a full heart health examination. There are many factors to be considered, so you will want to find someone who will answer all of your questions and give you all the information you need. At Cross County Cardiology, we pride ourselves on providing that kind of patient education, both in consultations and on our website at www.crosscountycardiology.com.
So give our cardiology specialists a call at 201-299-4479 and we’ll set up an appointment for an examination to determine the exact state of your heart health, and based on the findings we can make recommendations as to whether a pacemaker is needed.