Normally the heart’s electrical system sends signals from one of the top chambers of the heart and travels through and to the lower chambers of the heart causing a contraction and a single heartbeat. This system helps the heart pump in an efficient manner. A problem with any part of this system, either the part that sends the signal or any portion of the system downstream can cause a slow or ‘missing’ heartbeat. An artificial pacemaker may be needed to reset the heart to the right pace so the blood and oxygen are pumped to the brain and all other vital organs.
Artificial pacemakers are implanted into the body usually just below the left collarbone with a wire or ‘lead’ that is guided into the heart to touch the muscle on one end and connect to the pacemaker on the other end. It is specially programmed to the individual and sends signals for the heart to contract. The pacemaker is about the size of a large watch face and weighs about 1 ounce and contains a powerful battery and the computer with memory. The device settings can be changed in the physician’s office with a programming computer. The generator itself can last 5-10 years before having to be replaced.
There are several types of pacemakers. They can have one wire, two wires or three wires depending on the rhythm abnormalities and other cardiac issues the patient may have.