What is a Pacemaker?

Dr. Kevin Pistawka, MD, FRCSC, Cardiologist, discusses What is a Pacemaker

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Dr. Kevin Pistawka, MD, FRCSC, Cardiologist, discusses What is a Pacemaker
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Featuring Dr. Kevin Pistawka, MD, FRCSC, Cardiologist

Duration: 1 minute, 55 seconds

A pacemaker is an electronic device that you’ve probably heard about and typically this is used for patients who have had faints or blackouts, patients who have shortness of breath or fatigue typically from a low heart rate.  

So patients who have heart rates down in the 30s or 40s, or are having three or four second gaps in the heart rhythm, they’re the ones that we really need to consider pacing.  

A pacemaker is actually a rather miniaturized device these days. The older devices were much larger. They’re put in through a small incision just under the collarbone. The lead is then fed down through a vein to the right side of the heart, and it provides electrical signal, and it acts very much like a thermostat.  

So when the heart rate drops too low the pacer will kick in and elevate the heart rate much as a thermostat would elevate the temperature in your house. A pacer's typically the batteries last ten to 15 years.  

The operation usually is done as a day stay or a simple overnight stay, and patients with pacemakers typically can expect to have the battery replaced again in an operation that’s really pretty simple and usually again just requires a short stay in hospital for a few hours.  

Typically when a patient has a pacemaker inserted the biggest thing that it’s helping do is preventing fainting because fainting can be a real big problem. Can you imagine if you’re driving a car and you lose consciousness?  

So the primary focus of a pacemaker is to prevent faints, but in addition to that certainly helping the patient’s fatigue, breathlessness is an important thing that a pacer can do for many patients, not all.  

This is only fixing the electrical part of the heart. We’re not fixing the plumbing. We’re not fixing the valves. So it’s not really affecting the pump function, but it is certainly restoring the timing to a more natural rhythm so that patients can have better quality of life.

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Presenter: Dr. Kevin Pistawka, Cardiologist, Kelowna, BC

Local Practitioners: Cardiologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.