Treatment Options

Pacemaker/Defibrillator

These are small battery-powered devices that are placed under the skin of your chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. Through wires that travel from the device to the heart, small painless electrical pulses or shocks are applied directly to the heart to help control life-threatening arrhythmias and make the heart beat in a more normal rhythm.

Pacemakers may be used when the heart beats too slowly (bradycardia) or has other abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias). In some cases, special cardiac pacemakers also are used to treat the symptoms of heart failure. For example, Dr Smith may use special pacemakers for cardiac resynchronization therapy to strengthen the force of the hearts contractions in patients with congestive heart failure, enlarged and/or weakened heart muscles, or a significant electrical delay in the lower pumping chambers of the heart.

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) may be used to treat patients whose lower heart chambers (ventricles) quiver ineffectively (fibrillation) or beat too quickly (tachycardia). They are also used in patients who are at risk of these conditions due to previous cardiac arrest, heart failure or ineffective drug therapy for abnormal heart rhythms.

An ICD continually monitors the heartís rhythms and electrical patterns. When it detects a heartbeat that is irregular or too rapid, it delivers a low energy shock that resets the heart to a more normal rate and electrical pattern (cardioversion).

Pacemakers and ICDs are designed to last a lifetime, but they do require periodic maintenance. Batteries may last between six to 15 years depending on the device. Also, the insulated wires that lead from the device to the heart (the leads) must sometimes be replaced.
 

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