Pacemakers prevent or eliminate problems individuals experience irregular heartbeats called arrhythmia. These small electronic devices are implanted under the skin to help regulate heart rhythms and treat symptoms that result from bradycardia or slow heart rate. It is up to the person with the pacemaker to ensure their implanted device is checked regularly, follow the doctor's orders, and heed a few precautions. Batteries in pacemakers typically do not get low until after 7 to 10 years. At that time, doctors can perform a procedure to replace the generator.
Pacemakers are not a substitute for the work the heart performs in the body; they simply help it regulate the timing and sequence of the heartbeat. The pacemaker is made up of a generator, a tiny computer with a battery and other electronic parts, and leads or electrodes — flexible, insulated wires that send an electronic signal between the pacemaker and your heart. The surgeon places the pacemaker under the skin beneath the collarbone and threads the leads through a nearby vein to the heart. The other ends of the leads are plugged into the generator, which enables easy monitoring and programming. Smaller, leadless pacemakers are now available in the US, as well.
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