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A pacemaker is a small electrical device that runs on a battery and produces low voltage rhythmic electrical signals that keep the heart beating when the heart's own electrical signals are deficient. A pacemaker continuously "watches" the electrical system of your heart and provides the needed electrical signal if your heart does not do so. During periods when the heart produces its own electrical signal normally, the pacemaker does nothing except to continue to monitor.

A pacemaker may have one or two leads. A pacemaker with one lead is called a single-chamber pacemaker. Where this one lead sits depends on where the signal problem in your heart is. A pacemaker with two leads is called a dual-chamber pacemaker. One lead usually sits in your right atrium, and the other usually sits in your right ventricle. Which type of pacemaker you need depends upon the kind of rhythm disturbance you have and your overall heart function.

Pacemaker Care:

Pacemaker Clinic Check-Up services include clinic evaluation and interrogation of pacemakers and defibrillators that have been implanted in patients.

A complete pacemaker check should be done six weeks after a pacemaker is implanted. A pacemaker should then be checked every three months on the telephone to evaluate battery function. Your nurse will explain how to check your pacemaker using the telephone transmitter. When the battery function becomes low, it will become necessary to change your pacemaker (pacemakers usually last about four to eight years). Once a year, you will need a more complete exam at a hospital or doctor's office.

After implant, a pacemaker's functions need to be checked and sometimes adjusted. Your physician can do this using an external computerized device called a programmer/recorder/monitor (PRM). The PRM device communicates with the ICD in the body via radio waves from a wand held over the implant site. It works much like using a garage door opener or clicking a remote control to change channels on a television. The doctor or nurse uses the PRM to program and test the device after implant. When you come in for a check-up, the PRM is used to read the information stored in the pulse generator's memory since the last visit. The procedure is quick and painless.

Regular follow-up is important after a pacemaker implant. Your doctor will tell you how often you will need to have it checked. During check-ups, the doctor will determine if the device detected or treated any abnormal heart rhythms and will check the battery. These visits are very important.

Patients with pacemakers will also need to see a cardiologist at least once a year.