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A pacemaker is a small device that's placed in your chest to help control bradyarrhythmias – slow heart rates or significant pauses. Pacemakers use low-energy electrical pulses to overcome slow and faulty electrical signaling of your heart.
A pacemaker can relieve bradyarrhythmia symptoms, such as fatigue and fainting, and can help you restore a normal heart rate so you resume a more active lifestyle.
Pacemakers can also:
- Help to manage a fast heart rate by providing back-up when medication has been given to control fast heart rate, in patients with Tachybrady Syndrome
- Coordinate electrical signaling between the ventricles. Pacemakers that do this are called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. CRT devices are used to treat heart failure.
Types of Pacemakers
There are several types of pacemakers. The type we use will depend on the nature of your arrhythmia:
Single Chamber Pacemaker
We usually use this type of pacemaker (shown at right) if you have chronic atrial fibrillation. It contains one wire, which is usually threaded to the lower chamber of the heart the ventricle.
Dual Chamber Pacemaker
This type of pacemaker (shown at right) is used when we need to ensure synchronicity between the upper and lower chambers of your heart, as in cases of sinus node arrhythmia and AV node block. It contains two wires, one threaded to your heart’s upper chamber, the atrium, and one to its lower chamber, the ventricle.
Biventricular Pacemaker (CRT-P)
We use a biventricular pacemaker (shown at right), also known as the cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemaker (CRT-P), in cases of heart failure. If you have heart failure symptoms and decreased heart function, we might recommend a CRT-P.
This new type of pacemaker (shown at right) works in the lower chamber on the right side of your heart, doing the same job as a single chamber pacemaker. The pacemaker looks like a bullet, and currently the only version that is FDA-approved is called the “Micra™.” Although it can function the same way as a single chamber pacemaker, we prefer to use a leadless pacemaker in cases which have infrequent symptoms.
Despite these “standard” uses for pacemakers, we will work with you to make a decision together regarding which type of pacemaker is best for you.
It is also important to remember that some pacemakers are required to work all the time and some work infrequently, and are in place only as backup in case they are needed.
Finally, the majority of pacemakers implanted currently are MRI-compatible – if you have any questions regarding this, just ask.