What is a pacemaker? A pacemaker is a small, battery-powered device that is implanted into your chest to help regulate your heart rate.

Why do I need a pacemaker? You need a pacemaker if your heart beat is too slow or is irregular. Your heart may not be able to pump blood well throughout your body. This can happen because of heart failure, aging, or heart medications. You may have the following signs and symptoms:

What kinds of pacemakers are there?

How does a permanent pacemaker work? Your heart rate can change with activity. For example, your heart rate is lower when you are resting than when you are exercising. Most permanent pacemakers will sense your heart rate. This type of pacemaker is called an on-demand pacemaker. When your heart rate is below a preset value, the pacemaker starts to work to help your heart beat faster. Once your heart is pumping at the right rate, it will turn off. It will turn on again when it is needed. It can be programmed to meet your individual needs after it is inserted in your chest. For example, it can be programmed to help your heart during exercise or stress. If you have had a pacemaker in the past, you may have had a fixed-rate pacemaker. This type of pacemaker keeps a set rate that does not change.

How is a permanent pacemaker implanted? You will need a surgical procedure that lasts about 1 to 2 hours. Your caregiver will give you IV medicine to help you relax. In most cases, you will be awake, but very drowsy. Local anesthesia medicine will be injected to numb your skin. An incision will be made in the skin on your neck or chest. The leads of the pacemaker will be guided into your heart through a blood vessel. A second incision will be made to implant the pacemaker unit, usually just below your collarbone. The leads will be connected to the pacemaker unit. Both incisions will be closed with stitches. You will spend the night at the hospital after your procedure. This is done so caregivers can be sure your pacemaker is working as it should.

What are the risks of a permanent pacemaker?

What do I need to know about a permanent pacemaker?

Where can I find support or more information?


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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