A pacemaker is a small device, designed to help your heart to beat regularly. It sits under the skin on your chest, below your collarbone. It has a long-lasting battery and an electronic circuit sealed in a metal case. This sends electrical impulses to your heart muscle directly, via one or two leads.
When the electrical impulse reaches the heart muscle, it causes the heart to contract or beat.
Most pacemaker batteries last between five to ten years. The battery will be checked at pacemaker clinic appointments. Replacing the battery requires a local anaesthetic and is usually a brief procedure.
A healthy heart beats between 60 – 100 times per minute. Malfunctions of the heart have a number of causes:
- Cardiac disease
- The aging process
- Malfunctions in the cardiac conduction system
These situations can cause an irregular or slowed heartbeat. In this case, the body is – particularly under physical stress – not supplied with enough oxygen. This can cause dizziness, fatigue, or faintness.
The medical term for these kinds of rhythm disturbances is bradycardia.
Heart function can be meaningfully supported by a pacemaker.
This will be done by a Cardiologist who specialises in these procedures. At Ascot Hospital, this is Dr Douglas Scott.
This is performed in the Angiography Suite at Ascot Hospital. You will be lying on a procedure table for the procedure. Apart from the Cardiologist, there will be one or two cardiac technicians, up to three nurses, and a radiographer present during your procedure.
You will need to stop eating and drinking four hours before your procedure. This information will be provided to you when you book in for your procedure.
You will be given sedation (through a “drip”) during the procedure, as well as local anaesthetic (lignocaine) into your chest area. Once the area is numb, you should not experience any discomfort.
You may feel some pressure on your chest towards the end of the procedure when the device is being transplanted, but the doctor will warn you when this is going to happen.
Once your pacemaker has been implanted, you will need a chest X-ray to check the position of your lead/s. Later in the day, the cardiac technician will return to check the pacemaker.
You will usually be sent home within six hours.
You will be given information booklets before you are discharged as well as being encouraged to ask any questions you may have of the cardiac technician, the nurses, or the Cardiologist.
It can take a few weeks for the pacemaker leads to become fully secure, so you will be instructed to avoid heavy lifting and activities that require you to lift your arm above shoulder height. Generally, after four to six weeks you should be up to your normal activities, including work and travel.
You will need to clarify with your cardiologist about when you can start driving again.