Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates

Pacemakers

How a pacemaker worksHow a pacemaker works
(Source: National Institutes of Health)

A pacemaker is a device that is implanted in your chest or abdomen to help your heart maintain an adequate pace by delivering regular electrical pulses.

A pacemaker has two basic parts:

  • A pulse generator that sends out electrical signals
  • One or more leads, wires that are threaded through the veins to deliver these signals to the heart

There are several different types of pacemaker available, and your doctor will talk to you about which option is best for treating your condition.

» Why would a pacemaker be necessary?
» How is the pacemaker implanted?
» What can I expect after a pacemaker is implanted?

Why would a pacemaker be necessary?

If you have been diagnosed with an arrhythmia, heart failure or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and your condition has not responded to medication, your doctor may discuss the possibility of a pacemaker.

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How is the pacemaker implanted?

Pacemakers are implanted through a surgical procedure. You may be given a medication to help you relax, but you will probably be awake so that your medical team can periodically give you instructions (such as coughing or taking a deep breath).

  1. An area on your chest will be numbed with a local anesthesia.
  2. Your doctor will make a 2–3 inch cut just below your collarbone to create a "pocket" for the pacemaker.
  3. The surgeon will use an X-ray machine to guide the lead(s) into the heart and attach them with tines or small screws.
  4. The surgeon will attach the leads to the pacemaker, place it into the "pocket" in your chest, and test it to make sure it is working properly.
  5. Your surgeon will close the incision in your chest with stitches, staples or surgical glue.

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What can I expect after a pacemaker is implanted?

Most patients stay in the hospital overnight after pacemaker surgery. Before you go home, your doctor will give you very specific instructions on what you should and should not do for the next 4–6 weeks. Make sure to follow his or her instructions carefully, and feel free to call the office if you have any questions.

Your doctor will also talk to you about avoiding prolonged contact with devices that can interfere with your pacemaker's functioning. These can include:

  • Cell phones and MP3 players
  • Some household appliances, such as microwave ovens
  • High-tension wires
  • Metal detectors (You will be given an ID card that will allow you to pass airport security without going through a metal detector)

Once you have recovered from surgery, you will probably be able to resume most of your normal activities, including sports or vigorous exercise. You will need to come back in about once every 3 months to have your pacemaker checked.

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Learn about other implantable devices:

For more information about Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-441-1100 or 888-361-4375, or contact us online.