The heart of a healthy adult beats from 60 to 100 times a minute at rest. As your cardiologist would explain, abnormal heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmia, may cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow or erratically.
When this happens, the heart is not able to pump blood effectively, therefore, affecting its own function and that of other organs in the body like the lungs, liver and brain. When body organs are not able to receive enough blood for a prolonged period of time, they get damaged and eventually shut down.
If you are experiencing fainting spells, shortness of breath, weakness or if you feel that your heart is pounding too fast, too strong, too slow or erratically, you should consider seeing your cardiologist to determine whether or not you have abnormal heart rate. Your cardiologist may recommend a permanent pacemaker implantation to help regulate your heart rate.
What is a pacemaker? How is it implanted? How can you care for your pacemaker?
1. What is a pacemaker?
A permanent pacemaker is a small, battery-powered implanted cardiac device which is about the size of a matchbox that helps regulate your heart rate. A pacemaker sends electrical impulses to the heart to make it beat at a regular pace or rhythm or at a normal rate.
A permanent pacemaker consists of battery-powered pulse generators and wires called pacing leads that transmit the electrical impulses to the heart.
2. How is a pacemaker implanted?
Your cardiologist usually performs the permanent pacemaker implant or insertion. Under local anaesthesia, your cardiologist will make an incision in your skin, usually below the left or right collar bone, and implant the pacemaker beneath the skin.
He will then puncture the vein behind the collar bone and insert the wires or pacing leads that will reach the designated heart chamber. The pacing leads are connected to the pulse generator.
After the implant, your cardiologist will close your skin incision with sutures. Most permanent pacemaker implantation only takes 1-2 hours. You can be discharged from the hospital from 24-48 hours after the implant.
3. Is a permanent pacemaker implant procedure safe?
Yes, a permanent pacemaker implant is a generally safe procedure with virtually zero mortality rates. Your cardiologist would explain that generally, the risk associated with the procedure is only about 1%.
Considering the risks of fainting or of body organ failure due to irregular heart rate, this risk is very minimal. Risks may include infection, bleeding, and cardiac perforation in case the device malfunctions.
After you have had your pacemaker implanted, your cardiologist will remind you of things you can do to keep your pacemaker functioning well for a long time. Here are some of those:
1. Avoid devices that may interfere with your pacemaker. You should avoid going near large industrial magnetic devices and MRI machines; if you have one of the latest MRI-compatible pacemakers, you can undergo an MRI scan, but should inform your cardiologist, who may need to make some adjustments to the pacemaker before and after the scan. Anti-burglary systems in stores, airport scanners, metal detectors on doors and mobile phones placed more than 15 cm from the pacemaker may interfere with its normal function.
Your cardiologist will give you a pacemaker identification card which you should carry with you when you travel and present it to airport security.
2. See your cardiologist for regular pacemaker monitoring. A pacemaker has to be checked every 3-6 months. Your cardiologist will ensure that your pacemaker is working optimally. He will check if the settings are correct so that your pacemaker is functioning according to your heart condition. Regular checks will help your cardiologist detect errors in your pacemaker and correct these errors early to prevent damaging the device and putting your health at risk.
3. Advise your cardiologist if you will have activities that will potentially interfere with your pacemaker. Examples of these activities are dental visits that will require the use of electronic devices.
With a pacemaker in place, you can let your heart rest if it is beating too fast, or give it extra energy if it is beating too slowly. With your normal heart rate restored, you will have more energy and less shortness of breath, letting you enjoy more activities and reducing your risk of developing serious heart conditions. See your cardiologist in Singapore about pacemaker implant today.