Wednesday, February 16, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — As more people live longer with heart disease, the use of pacemakers and other heart-helping devices has grown. The February issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource covers how these devices are used to treat heart disease. Here is a description of two devices.
Pacemakers. A heart rate that's slower than normal, a condition called bradycardia, is the most common reason for pacemaker implantation. Pacemakers also are used to treat heart rates that alternate between too fast and too slow, as well as rapid, irregular heartbeats.
A pacemaker is surgically implanted, usually near the collarbone. Two wires, called pacing leads, connect the device to the heart. When the heart rate slows, speeds up or becomes irregular, the pacemaker fires electrical pulses to the heart. The stimulation helps the heart beat at a proper rate or pace.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). Defibrillating or shocking the heart is the only way to stop certain life-threatening heart rhythm problems and restore normal rhythm. Defibrillation can be done externally, with chest paddles or a computerized device, or internally with an ICD.
Like a pacemaker, an ICD is surgically implanted under the skin. Typically, it's connected via wires to the heart's right ventricle. When the device detects dangerous rhythms, it delivers a lifesaving shock that may feel like a kick in the chest.
ICDs may be recommended for people who have had a previous cardiac arrest, have a history of severe heart damage from a heart attack or heart failure, or have an inherited disease that increases risk of heart rhythm abnormalities.
People who have heart rhythm devices usually lead active lives that can include exercise and most sports. While the devices don't cure heart disease, they allow people to live fuller, longer lives.
Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 800-876-8633, extension 9751, (toll-free) or visit Mayo Clinic's Online Bookstore.
Journalists can become a member of the Mayo Clinic News Network for the latest health, science and research news and access to video, audio, text and graphic elements that can be downloaded or embedded.
Learn more about becoming a patient at Mayo Clinic in the Patient & Visitor Guide.