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Cardiac pacing

Pacemakers treat irregular or slow heart rhythms.

Pacemakers are about the size of matchboxes. This device is equipped with an electric circuit and a long-lasting battery. Pacemakers are typically placed under the skin just below the collarbone and send electric impulses down a vein to the heart.

What causes an abnormal heart rhythm?

Your heartbeat is controlled by electric impulses from a group of cells called sinus nodes. Normal heartbeats cause the upper chambers (atria) to contract and relax in coordination with the lower chambers (ventricles).

Usually, a pacemaker is recommended to treat bradycardia, in which the ventricles beat more slowly than they should, resulting in less blood flow.

Why do I need a pacemaker?

You may be at risk for developing or have experienced abnormal heart rhythms. Bradycardia can lead to cardiac arrest (when your heart stops working) and even death in severe cases. You may also experience dizziness or collapsing (blacking out), feel breathless, or get swollen legs.

A pacemaker is specifically developed to monitor the rhythm of your heartbeat and detect instances where it becomes abnormally slow. When such occurrences are identified, the pacemaker delivers brief electrical impulses or paced beats to stimulate your heart and ensure it continues beating at a healthy pace (pacing).

Prior to your procedure, you will undergo an electrocardiogram (ECG) which is a test used to record and analyse the electrical activity of your heart. This procedure traces the electrical signals within your heart and provides valuable information about its functioning.

What happens during pacemaker surgery (pacemaker insertion)?

During pacemaker surgery, the procedure is typically performed using local anaesthesia. If you have any concerns or worries about the procedure, don't hesitate to ask, and you may also be offered a sedative or painkiller to help you relax. Once the anaesthesia takes effect, the area will be numbed, ensuring you don't feel any pain. You might experience a gentle pulling sensation, but it's nothing to worry about.

The surgeon will make a small incision just below your collarbone and guide a lead wire through a vein, directing it towards your heart. In case you require multiple leads, the surgeon will repeat this process accordingly. A small pocket will be created just beneath the skin, near your collarbone, where the pacemaker will be inserted. Once everything is in place, your surgeon will conduct tests to ensure the pacemaker is functioning properly.

Cardiac pacing is performed in a cath lab with a team of specialist led by a consultant cardiologist - this procedure is usually referred to another hospital with a cath lab. Pacemakers can be monitored by the experts at Sulis Hospital. Do contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. Our dedicated and knowledgeable team are here to help you and will direct you to an expert who can address your specific needs.

After pacemaker surgery, you can expect to stay in the hospital for approximately one to two days. Our dedicated specialist team will closely monitor your heart rhythm throughout your stay to ensure everything is progressing well. As part of the monitoring process, you may undergo a chest x-ray to verify the correct positioning of your pacemaker and leads.

It is normal to experience some discomfort or pain following the operation. Please don't hesitate to inform our nursing team if you are experiencing any pain, as they will be able to provide appropriate measures to help alleviate it. You may also notice some bruising and soreness in the area where the pacemaker was inserted. These are common side effects of the procedure.

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