Payback from a pacemaker

How a Sophisticated Heart Computer Can Improve Your Life

xrayMedicine has experienced great progress in the area of technology in the past decade, and the capabilities of pacemakers are no exception. Pacemakers for the heart have evolved rapidly.

Today, pacemakers not only provide the ability to save your life, but they can dramatically improve your quality of living and allow your provider to monitor your heart condition remotely.

“The pacemaker has evolved to be a very sophisticated computer,” says Scott & White cardiologist Javier E. Banchs, MD.

Dr. Banchs treats patients with cardiovascular disease and a number of heart conditions, specially focusing in cardiac arrhythmias. He works with patients who need pacemakers for their heart and provides some useful information about the benefits of this advanced technology.

A Sophisticated Computer for Your Heart

A pacemaker is a small generator controlled with a very sophisticated computer. Your pacemaker stimulates the heart and keeps it going through wires inserted into the heart muscle.

“Pacemakers can help patients with slow heart rhythms (bradycardia) or problems in the electrical conduction system of the heart,” explains Dr. Banchs. “Aging and some forms of heart disease could results in heart block, lack of transmission of the electrical impulse from the top (atria) to the bottom chambers (ventricles).”

If you have one of these heart conditions, you can visit with your cardiologist to see which treatment is right for you. Often, pacemakers help those who are at risk for strokes, fainting or even death. If you have a trusting relationship with your cardiologist, you can avoid serious issues that may await.

“Since life is full of risk and receiving or living with a pacemaker is not an exemption, it is very important that the patient understands why he is receiving it and what is involved,” says Dr. Banchs. “Understanding and trust are the best elements to alleviate the fear around the pacemaker.”

Benefits of a Pacemaker

The pacemaker can take over the electrical activity of the heart and keep the heart beat going but it is important to understand that it cannot slow fast rhythms, which is a common misconception.

If you have fast heart rhythms, sometimes a pacemaker is used to allow you to take medication or undergo another procedure (ablation) to slow the fast rhythms without the risk of slowing your heart too much.

“In most cases, when the pacemaker is recommended, it is because the benefits of receiving a pacemaker significantly outweigh the risks,” says Dr. Banchs.

Some benefits of receiving a pacemaker include:

  • Restoring the normal heart rhythm and rate helps you feel better, remain active and carry on with your life.
  • Sensors can stimulate the heart at a rate that fits your degree of activity.
  • Keeping you around longer enjoying the company of your loved ones.
  • Batteries are smaller and lasting longer than ever before (seven to 10 years on average).
  • Sophisticated programmable features.
  • The wires, called leads, can record the electrical signals of the heart and monitor if your heart is going too fast or too slow and respond accordingly by pacing (stimulating the heart) when it goes too slow.
  • Allowing your provider to understand if fast rhythms are coming from the top or bottom chambers of the heart.
  • Recording statistics of the frequency, rates of stimulation and your physical activity.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms that could lead to stroke can be detected early with the pacemaker without you even leaving home.
  • Changes in the pacemaker’s function can be detected before it affects you.

“It seems clear that, as population ages and life expectancy continues to improve, there will be an increasing role for pacemakers and implantable cardiac devices to keep us around longer and active, enjoying the company of our loved ones,” says Dr. Banchs.

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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Payback from a pacemaker