A pacemaker is a tiny device, implanted under the skin, which controls arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat. The contractions of a healthy heart are controlled by tiny electrical impulses within the body. If something goes wrong with this internal electrical system, a pacemaker can take over and keep the heart beating in a regular rhythm.
The device consists of a battery and two insulated wires that will carry electricity to the heart. In most cases, the wires are put into position through a small incision near the shoulder and threaded through a large vein. A battery pack, about the size of a silver dollar, is inserted just under the collarbone, and the wires are connected to it.
The pacemaker monitors your heartbeat. Newer models can even measure temperature, respiration, and other vital signs, constantly sending them to your physician. Pacemakers adjust to activity level, and do not intervene unless the heart begins to beat irregularly. If this happens, low-energy electrical impulses are temporarily given to the heart in a stable rhythm to get the heart beating back in time.
In adults, pacemakers are usually inserted using minimal anesthesia. You will be given medication to make you drowsy and block pain. After the procedure, you may have swelling and discomfort while the incisions heal. It’s important to take things slowly at first to allow your heart to adjust to the pacemaker. Normal activity can be resumed within a few days, but heavy lifting and vigorous exercise should be avoided for several weeks.