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An artificial pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device that can be permanently placed inside the chest or attached externally for temporary use. A pacemaker may be needed when problems occur with the electrical conduction system of the heart. Problems with the heart rhythm may cause difficulties because the heart is unable to pump an adequate amount of blood to the body. If the heart rate is too slow, the blood is pumped too slowly. If the heart rate is too fast or too irregular, the heart chambers are unable to fill up with enough blood to pump out with each beat. When the body does not receive enough blood, symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, fainting, and/or chest pain may occur. Pacemakers can be used to treat all types of abnormal rhythms. Your cardiologist will select the type of device that best corrects your particular heart rhythm problem.

How a Pacemaker Is Implanted

Implanting a pacemaker is usually performed during a minimally invasive surgical procedure in a cardiovascular catheterization laboratory. A local anesthesia is used to numb the treatment area. An IV (intravenous line) into the arm or hand will provide the medication to make the procedure as comfortable as possible.

The pacemaker is inserted into the chest, through a small incision which forms a pocket to hold the device in place. From a small incision under the collarbone, the leads are guided into a large vein that connects to the heart; this process is aided by viewing X-ray images on a fluoroscopy machine. One end of the lead is attached to the heart wall while the other end of the lead is attached to the pacemaker.

Pacemaker technology has advanced. The devices are smaller and the recovery time is usually short. You should be able to return to your daily routine within a few days. Your doctor will tell you if you will need to take more time in returning to your normal activities. Refrain from lifting or pulling on anything for a few weeks. You may be instructed to limit movement of the arm on the side that the pacemaker was placed, based on your doctor's preferences. Most patients can resume their usual diet immediately. Keep the insertion site clean and dry. You will be given instructions about bathing and showering. Your doctor will let you know when you can resume driving.The nature of your occupation, your overall health status, and your healing will determine how soon you may return to work.