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Everyone’s heart has a natural pacemaker that works to coordinate the rhythms and contractions of the heart. Sometimes, however, that natural pacemaker stops working properly, which can cause an abnormal heart rate or rhythm that’s too slow, too fast or simply irregular.

The good news is that Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular can help. With a permanent pacemaker implantation, we can help correct the heart’s deficiency and restore heartbeats to a healthy rate.

What is a pacemaker?

Essentially it is a tiny computer (about the size of a pocket watch and weighing just 3 ounces). This innovative device is placed under the skin, near the heart, and works to control and regulate the heartbeat.

The pacemaker senses and registers the body’s natural heartbeat and makes corrections when necessary to maintain normal heart function.

What is an arrhythmia?

People usually require a pacemaker when they have been diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm, also called an arrhythmia. If a heart beats too slowly, quickly or erratically, blood flow to the body and brain may be affected and that can have noticeable and sometimes serious consequences, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Fainting/Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Heart failure

As we get older, our hearts pump less effectively, which could lead to an abnormal heart rhythm. Other factors that may cause arrhythmias are congenital heart abnormalities (a condition you are born with), a family history of heart disease and side effects of certain medications.

How is the pacemaker implantation performed?

At Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular, our patients undergo a minor surgical procedure in which the pacemaker is implanted in a patent’s chest area. Most often, the device is placed in the left shoulder area below the collarbone.

  • Conscious Sedation Patients are typically awake during the procedure and given a local anesthesia to numb the incision site. Additionally, sedation medication can be given to help patients relax during the procedure.
  • Incision After a nurse begins an IV for medications and fluids (if necessary), a small incision will be made at the point of insertion and the pacemaker is then guided to the heart via x-ray imaging.
  • Lead Placement The pacemaker also features leads (which are flexible, insulated wires) and these wires are inserted into the heart through a blood vessel. These wires are also the channels that carry vital information signals from your heart to the pacemaker as well as electrical pulses (generated from the pacemaker) back to the heart. The wires are attached to the pacemaker’s generator (the small, titanium container that houses the device’s electrical circuitry).
  • Testing and Completion After the initial insertion is complete, your cardiologist will conduct tests to ensure that it is properly positioned and functional.

A few simple precautions to take after the implantation.

While it’s unlikely that a pacemaker would discontinue working due to an electrical interference, it’s wise to be aware of, and take a few easy precautions.

No Cellphones Avoid placing a turned on cell phone directly over your pacemaker. Although highly unlikely, your pacemaker may misinterpret the cellphone signal as an actual heartbeat.

Airport Metal Detectors Passing through an airport metal detector will not interfere with a pacemaker, though the metal in the pacemaker may sound off the alarm. If airport security insists on using a hand-held metal detector, ask that it not be held near your pacemaker longer than necessary.

Personal Space Keep a couple feet between you and welding equipment, high-voltage transformers and motor-generator systems. (If you work around this type of equipment, your doctor can arrange a workplace test to determine if it has a direct effect on your pacemaker.)

ID Cards Always carry your pacemaker ID card in your wallet. Your identification card includes information from the manufacturer about your specific pacemaker model. Always present this card when being examined by a healthcare professional or when going through airport security.

Monitor Your Device The effectiveness of your pacemaker should be checked every few months and it’s easy to do by telephone. Simply connect to a phone line with either a wand placed over the pacemaker, or a transmitter attached to wristbands. Once connected, your device sends information to your doctor’s office, where a technician will check your heart rate and rhythm as well as evaluate your pacemaker’s function and battery life.

Contact us to learn more about permanent pacemaker implantation or to schedule an consultation in your area.

To schedule an appointment in Portland, please call 503-257-0959.