A Cardiac Pacemaker is a device placed externally or internally to treat patients with irregular heartbeat. Naturally, the heart beats are controlled through electrical impulses from sinus node. A pacemaker is administered to the patients with ‘cardiac arrhythmia’ when this natural system fails and results in heart problems with too slow, too quick, or an abnormal heart beat pattern.
External pacemakers are generally deployed on temporary basis to control heartbeat pattern until the installation of a permanent pacemaker. Permanent pacemakers are set into the body (chest) under the layer of skin and fat and just beneath the left collar bone of the patient, through a surgery. The modern versions come in size of a matchbox and weighs approximately 20-50 grams only. The components include a pulse generator, a sensor, electronic circuits, a lithium battery, and one or more electrode leads.
Generally, after successful installation of a pacemaker, the patient can return to normal routine in about a week or so. They are safe and trouble-free. However there are some common dos and don’ts that one must take care of and they are:
- Patients with a permanent cardiac pacemaker should take regular check-ups to ensure that the device is working properly.
- People having cardiac pacemaker installed in their body should not venture into contact sports like rugby and boxing, which may cause damage to the device.
- Persons with pacemaker should avoid proximity with strong magnetic devices such as MRI scanner, or any other scanners before surgeries as magnetic rays can interfere with the pacemaker program.
- If traveling, person with a cardiac pacemaker should inform the security staff/authorities about the pacemaker device in advance as it may get detected by the electric security system and may whistle a siren.
- Even when getting checked with hand-held metal detector, the patients should ensure that they do not pass the detector direct over the device. Generally all cardiac pacemaker patients are provided with a International Pacemaker Patient Identification Cards, which you must carry along to avoid such situations.
- Heart patients with a cardiac pacemaker installed should avoid diathermy (heat therapy) to treat muscles.
- It is also advisable that patients should turn-off large motors , such as those in cars or boats, while performing repair or any other work on them as they may create problem in the device.
- In case of going through any surgical procedure by a surgeon or a dentist, let the doctor know about the device first. In some cases, the surgeon may need to turn-off the device before operation.
Above all, don’t work on presumptions. Always clear each and every doubt / confusion from your doctor lest you should put yourself in trouble.
Cardiac Pacemakers are safe and trouble-free. Proper care and regular check-ups can save the life of heart patients. A little care and caution in using cardiac pacemaker can improve the patient’s quality of life very much.