An arrhythmia is a heart rate or rhythm disorder. It means that your heart beats too quickly or slowly or with an irregular pattern. Most arrhythmias are triggered by problems in the heart’s electrical system.
While mild arrhythmias are so minor that they often go unnoticed, serious arrhythmias can cause erratic heartbeats and rhythms that ripple through each chamber. They can trigger palpitating heart symptoms that make it feel as though your heart is racing, fluttering, or flip-flopping in your chest.
Uncontrolled severe arrhythmias are a leading cause of stroke and sudden cardiac arrest.
A pacemaker is a small, implantable device that helps prevent abnormal heart rhythms. It uses continuous electrical pulses to prompt your heart to beat with a normal rate and rhythm pattern. Atrial fibrillation, also called Afib or AF, is the most common cardiac arrhythmia.
A pacemaker can be used to speed up a slow heart rhythm (bradycardia), slow down a rapid heart rhythm (tachycardia), and keep the rhythm coordinated between the chambers of your heart.
By keeping your heartbeat consistent and up to speed, a pacemaker helps prevent persistent, debilitating symptoms like fatigue and dizziness; it also reduces your heart attack and stroke risk.
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) monitors your heart rhythms continuously. When it senses dangerous patterns, it delivers controlled electrical shocks that restore normal rhythms. This treatment is called defibrillation.
An ICD is used to control life-threatening arrhythmias, particularly ones that are more likely to cause sudden cardiac arrest. New, advanced ICDs act as both a defibrillator and a pacemaker; they also record your heart’s electrical patterns when rhythms are abnormal, providing data that can help your cardiologist plan future treatment.
Getting a pacemaker or ICD requires minor surgery and a short hospital stay of one or two days to ensure your device is working properly. Most people can resume normal activities a few days after the procedure.
Before cardiac device implantation surgery, your surgical team gives you an intravenous (IV) sedative to help you relax and numbs the treatment area with a local anesthetic. You may also receive antibiotics to prevent infection. Often, patients remain awake during the procedure.
While pacemakers and ICDs can be implanted in your chest or abdomen, they’re typically inserted under your breastbone or along your ribs. Your surgical team may use high-definition X-ray imaging or echocardiography to guide the process.
The exact procedure details depend on the type of device you’re getting. Most cardiac device insertions involve placing the monitor in a specific spot and connecting it to one or two sensor wires that have been carefully inserted into blood vessels that lead to your heart.
Once the device is in place, your surgical team tests it and closes the incision.
To learn more about the pacemaker and defibrillator services at Coastal Cardiology of Orange County, call the nearest office, or schedule an appointment online today.