Heart Rhythm Center

What is a Pacemaker?

Pacemakers are used to treat heart rhythms that are too slow. These abnormal heart rhythms are called arrhythmias. A healthy heart has its own pacemaker that regulates how fast it beats; however, some hearts have trouble beating regularly due to an interruption in the normal electrical pathway. In these cases, a pacemaker can be used to correct the problem. This is a small device that sends electrical impulses to the heart muscle, causing it to contract at a suitable heart rate and rhythm.

Types of Pacemakers

There are two different types of pacemakers: single chamber pacemakers and dual chamber pacemakers. Each of these can be used to treat different problems with the heart.

  • Single Chamber: energy will be delivered to the right ventricle to help it contract
  • Dual Chamber: energy will be delivered to both ventricles to create a normal rhythm

Preparing for the Procedure

  • Should I take my medications? Prior to the procedure, your doctor will advise you on what medications you should stop taking, as well as what medications you can continue taking.
  • Can I eat before the procedure? The night before the procedure, you cannot eat or drink anything after midnight. If you need to take medications, take a very small sip of water.
  • Where will I go for my procedure? Prior to the procedure, you will be instructed on when and where to go. If you have any questions about this, please call us at (408) 879-5900.

What Can I Expect During the Procedure?

Typically, this procedure takes one to two hours. The pacemaker will be implanted after numbing medication has been injected into the surgical site. Medication will also be administered through an IV to help you relax. Next, flexible insulated wires, known as “leads,” will be inserted into a vein near or underneath the collarbone. This is done with guidance from X-ray images. The other end of the lead will be attached to a generator, which is implanted in the upper chest under the skin.

What Can I Expect After the Procedure?

After the procedure, you may experience some discomfort. The incision area will be tender and swollen for a few days, for which pain medication can be provided. You will be required to stay in the hospital overnight, and your pacemaker will be reevaluated the next morning. If everything looks good, your doctor will send you home. You will be given specific instructions about how to take care of yourself—which may include instructions for medication, wound care, physical activity, etc.

What Happens After I Go Home?

Once you are sent home, you will be expected to come back for a few follow-up appointments. These instructions will be given to you prior to your discharge. Pacemaker therapy is only one part of a comprehensive treatment program, so it is important that you continue to take all necessary medications, make more beneficial lifestyle choices, make dietary changes and keep your follow-up appointments. After all, you should be an active member of your own treatment team.

If you have any further questions, please contact our hospital in San Jose.

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