Pacemaker Implant

Overview

What is a Pacemaker Implant?

When your heart beats too fast, too slow or irregularly, you have an arrhythmia, or abnormal heartbeat. A pacemaker implant can restore a normal heart rate and rhythm.

To help your heart automatically maintain a predictable rhythm, we permanently implant a battery-powered pacemaker, or small electrical device, into your chest. Many pacemakers have one or two wires (called leads) that connect to your heart and help keep your heart rate normal. For some people, we can also use new leadless pacemakers, which means they’re wireless.

For serious arrhythmias that can cause your heart to stop, we can implant a pacemaker that includes an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD sends a small electrical charge to your heart to restore a normal heart rhythm. Learn more about ICD insertion.

With a heart pacemaker in place, you may begin to feel much better. Your symptoms of arrhythmia, such as tiredness and syncope (fainting), may significantly decrease. Learn more about arrhythmias.

Types of Pacemakers

Your doctor will determine which kind of device you need. We implant the following types of pacemakers:

  • Single chamber: This pacemaker uses one lead (wire) connected to either an upper (atrium) or lower chamber (ventricle) of your heart.
  • Dual chamber: This type includes two leads – one in an atrium and one in a ventricle.
  • Biventricular: This device requires three leads (wires) and is used for people with advanced heart failure. We use a biventricular pacemaker in cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT).
  • Leadless: We use this wireless pacemaker for people who have a slow heart rate (bradycardia) and need pacemaker help only in a single heart chamber.

World-Class Care

Comprehensive Care for Your Pacemaker Implant

We have 10 full-time, board-certified electrophysiologists throughout our system. These doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating problems with the heart’s electrical system and implanting devices like pacemakers.

When you come to us for a pacemaker implant, you can count on:

  • A history of skilled care: Our cardiac electrophysiology department – the team that implants pacemakers – is one of the oldest and most active programs in the county. You want an experienced surgeon implanting your pacemaker, and they’re here at Aurora.
  • Pacemaker expertise: We implant or replace more than 800 devices every year. This procedure is one of our specialties. We also will regularly check your pacemaker, using remote, computerized, automatic monitoring.
  • Multiple facilities: With 15 hospitals and 155 clinics throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois, you can get a pacemaker implant at one of our many locations.

Preparing for Treatment

How to Get Ready for Your Pacemaker Implant

Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.

Before You Leave Home

We typically will ask you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your implant. Other guidelines include:

  • Your doctor will tell you whether and when to stop taking any of your medications.
  • Wear comfortable clothes to the hospital. You’ll change into a gown for your procedure.
  • Arrange for someone to give you a ride to and from the hospital after the procedure.

What to Expect

What Happens During a Pacemaker Procedure?

We perform your implantation procedure in a lab or a special surgical suite. Usually, we can implant a heart pacemaker in about two hours. During the procedure:

  1. We’ll insert an intravenous (IV) line into your arm to give you a sedative to help you relax or other medication as needed. You’ll be awake for the procedure.
  2. We monitor your heart’s electrical activity during the procedure by connecting you to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine. We also follow your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing during and after the procedure.
  3. We disinfect and may shave a small area on your upper chest where we make the incision to insert the pacemaker.
  4. Your doctor will take chest X-rays to help determine exactly where to place the pacemaker leads, or wires. We attach each lead (you’ll need one to three, depending on your type of pacemaker) to the appropriate chamber in your heart. We connect the other ends of the leads to a small pulse generator, which we usually insert in the skin just under your collarbone.
  5. You may feel us pushing on your shoulder during the procedure, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. We make sure you’re comfortable throughout the process.

When the Procedure Is Complete

With your pacemaker in place, we’ll custom-program it to help manage your particular heart arrhythmia. We’ll keep you in the hospital for several hours or perhaps overnight to make sure the device is working well.

You’ll need someone to drive you home after the implantation procedure. We also recommend that someone stay with you for a couple of days in case of any problems.

If you work, you may want to take a few days off to give your body time to heal.

Recovery

Recovering from a Pacemaker Implant

Most people feel a little sore after the procedure, but that goes away gradually. We’ll give you some mild pain medication and tell you which other medication(s) to continue or stop taking.

Other things to know:

  • Exercise: Your doctor will give you detailed instructions, including guidelines on what kind of physical activity is safe in the first few months after your implant.
  • Follow-up appointments: Be sure to keep these appointments so your doctor can test and reprogram the pacemaker to best fit your needs.
  • Remote monitoring: Your pacemaker will regularly transmit messages to our monitoring team so they can see how well the device is working. However, you’ll still need to come in for appointments on occasion.
  • Special needs: Most people with pacemakers find that they can quickly resume their everyday activities. We’ll give you a list of precautions, depending on your specific case, such as:
    • You’ll need to let medical and dental professionals know that you have a pacemaker.
    • Your device may set off metal detectors at the airport, so you’ll want to alert screeners.
    • You should carry an ID card that lets people know that you have a pacemaker.

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