In an effort to fix abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, and allow your heart to beat more efficiently, you doctor may suggest a device implant. The most common of these are pacemakers and implantable cardioverter/defibrillators (ICDS); these are implanted in the cardiac cath lab or during surgery.
Pacemakers: These are small implanted devices meant to correct heart rhythms that are out of synch or too slow. A pacemaker mimics your heart’s natural pacemaker: the cluster of cells that create an electrical impulse and force the heart to beat. Pacemakers tend to have two parts: one to three leads (small wires that send your heart electrical pulses), and a pulse generator (the battery and circuitry that create and regulate pulses). Once the pacemaker is implanted, it monitors your breathing and temperature, as well as supplying electrical pulses to adjust your heart rate to what your body needs.
Implantable Cardioverter/Defibrillators (ICDs): These are used to treat or prevent dangerously fast or chaotic arrhythmias called ventricular tachycardia (v-tach) or ventricular fibrillation (v-fib). Their functioning is described below:
- When the pulse is abnormally fast, the heart receives a low-energy shock at the same time as the regular heartbeat.
- When the pulse is chaotic, the heart receives a high-energy shock that changes it to a normal rhythm.
A biventricular ICD works to coordinate the heart’s pumping action. Heart failure may distort the ventricles’ timing so they no longer pump together. While a regular pacemaker senses its signal to the right ventricle, a biventricular ICD sends a signal to both ventricles so they pump in unison. This helps the heart pump more efficiently and improve symptoms caused by heart failure.