An Overview of Pacemakers

As you go through a normal day of walking around, taking the stairs, or lifting something heavy, your body makes adjustments to better accomplish each task. For example, your heart rate increases in order to pump more blood to your body as you begin an activity. But if you have a slow or abnormal heart rhythm, the heart doesn’t adequately respond to the situation, which can leave you feeling fatigued or short of breath.  

Enter the pacemaker, a medical device that has been used since the 1960s to help pace the heart for people with slow or abnormal heart rhythms. The device is typically placed under the skin in the patient’s shoulder area with wires leading to the heart. Since its invention, pacemaker technology has improved to include increasingly smaller devices, longer-lasting batteries, and the ability to sense when the heart needs pacing rather than constantly pacing. 

More recent technology advancements have also resulted in MRI-compatible pacemakers and the MICRA pacemaker, which is one-tenth the size of a standard pacemaker and small enough to be placed entirely in the heart muscle. Physicians at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital participated in cutting-edge research related to the MICRA technology, which is designed for a specific subset of patients with heart rhythm issues. Participating in such research projects is one of many ways the Oklahoma Heart Hospital ensures that patients benefit from the latest research and medical technology. 

A common misconception about pacemakers is that they are primarily for older individuals with heart problems, but abnormal heart rhythms can affect people of any age. Physicians at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital see patients in their 20s and 30s who are suffering from fatigue and are unable to maintain their usual level of daily activity. Especially in patients with a somewhat sudden onset of fatigue systems, it’s important to thoroughly check the heart and rule out any serious heart conditions. A range of diagnostic tests can be used to determine the specific problem and whether a pacemaker is the best course of action. 

The range of normal heart rhythm is between 60 to 100 beats per minute, but heartbeat alone is not an indication of heart rhythm issues. Some people may have a heart rate that is consistently in the 40-50 beats per minute range and still feel fine. Rather, it’s the combination of a low heart rate with other symptoms — fatigue, not feeling well overall, unable to complete daily activities as before — that signal the need for medical evaluation. 

For most people dealing with fatigue or other symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm, getting a pacemaker can be a life-changing event that allows them to return to their prior activity level, whether that means simply working a full day on their feet or competing as an all-star athlete. If you feel fatigued or have noticed a recent change in your heart rate, contact the Oklahoma Heart Hospital today to schedule an appointment.

Cardiac Electrophysiology & Pacing