Pacemakers: Things You Should Know
A Pacemaker is a tiny device weighing 25 to 35 grams, used for sending electrical impulse to heart muscles to induce artificial heart beat in patients who have a slower heart rate. The normal heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, if the heart rate is lower than 40 beats per minute, a person may suffer from giddiness and have black outs. If you suffer from such symptoms, you should consult your health practitioner immediately.
In addition to stimulating the heart muscle, a pacemaker is also able to sense the normal heart beats. If it senses the normal beat, then it does not stimulate the heart unnecessarily. In other words, this is known as demand pacing. This saves the battery and increase the durability of the pacemaker.
A Pacemaker is implanted below the left or right collar bone underneath the skin and fat tissue. The leads are passed via a vein and connected to the heart muscle on one end and connected to the pacemaker on the other end. The pacemaker parameters are programmable and can be changed externally by a programmer. Normally a pacemaker lasts for 10 to 12 years depending on the current it utilises to stimulate the heart.
1. Use a cell phone in the opposite ear i.e. if pacemaker is implanted below the left collar bone, then cell phone should be used on the right side.
2. Do not go near high tension wires. Patient can use house hold electric appliances without any problem. But, the house hold electrical appliances should be well grounded.
3. Pacemaker patients should pass through metal detectors fast and should inform the security personnel about the device. So the security personnel will check the person by hand rather than use a hand held metal detector.
4. Pacemaker patients should stay very close to metal detectors or theft detectors placed in the malls or other areas.
5. Many medical investigations like ultra sound, echocardiogram, X-ray, CT scan can be safely used on these patients without any fear. However, magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI) should not be done in these patients, as it can damage the pacemaker circuit. Recently, the MRI compatible pacemaker is also available and if the patient has this kind of pacemaker, then MRI can be done safely.
6. Radiation therapy, which is needed in some cancer patients can damage the pacemaker if the pacemaker comes directly in contact with the radiation area. So measures are taken to avoid direct exposure of the pacemaker to the radiation beams.
There are devices known as AICD ( automatic implantable cardioverter and defibrillator ), which are pacemakers with an additional function. They give high voltage shock when needed. This device is needed for some patients who occasional develop a very fast heart rate known as ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation. This kind of abnormality, often ranges from 150 to 250 beats per minute and can be life threatening. This device can give a shock in a few seconds and can save a life. This device is implanted in patients, who either have a history of fast heart rates or have a high risk of developing fast heart rates.
There are also other pacemakers, which are part of the cardiac resynchronisation therapy. These pacemakers stimulate both sides of the heart chamber, by synchronising the contraction pattern. This device is needed by patients who have disorganised contraction patterns in their cardiac chamber.
*Data Courtesy: Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, consultant cardiology and electrophysiology, Asian Heart Institute
*Image Courtesy: Wikipedia