What are pacemakers?

A pacemaker is a tiny battery-powered device that keeps your heart beating in a regular rhythm. It works by sensing when your heart has lost a regular or healthy rhythm by measuring the electrical impulses your heart is producing. The heart’s natural pacemaker is called the sinus node. It’s a grouping of cells in the upper chamber of the heart that produces electrical impulses that cause your heart to beat. When those cells aren’t functioning properly, your heartbeat could become too fast, too slow or irregular. Problems can also occur because of a disconnect in your heart’s natural electrical pathways. When an irregularity is sensed, the artificial pacemaker comes into play by shocking the heart back into its regular rhythm.

How does a pacemaker work?

Most of us know that when a person’s heart stops suddenly in cardiac arrest, it can be restarted with the use of a defibrillator or more frequently known as an AED. They have become very common in exercise facilities and sports venues all across the country. They save lives by creating a strong electrical shock that restarts the heart. A pacemaker works the same way, except it is often implanted in your chest.

Who can be helped by a pacemaker? For people who have suffered heart damage from heart attack or recurrent arrhythmias caused by coronary disease, a pacemaker may be the only solution to ensure their heart keeps beating. A pacemaker, also known as an ICD or implantable cardioverter defibrillator, works by continuously monitoring your heart and its electrical system. If an arrhythmia starts to occur, the pacemaker shocks the heart and resets it to a normal heartbeat.

If you think or have been told by a doctor that you may need a pacemaker, don’t wait. Please consult your primary care doctor right away.

In Central Oregon, the specialists at the St. Charles Heart and Lung Center strive to help people with artificial pacemakers lead normal, healthy and happy lives.