Permanent pacemakers are generally used to treat patients with slow heart rates. Most patients are admitted to the hospital on the same day of their surgery and will stay overnight. The pacemaker, a small, electronic device placed beneath the skin, adjusts heart rates according to changes in the body's activity level or demand for oxygen. Pacemakers can be used to stimulate the bottom chambers (ventricles), the top chambers (atria), or both.
Defibrillators, also called implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), can help manage patients who have life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, like ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. The pager-sized device is implanted under the skin and includes a pulse generator with electrodes that are connected to the heart. When the internal computer senses a dangerous arrhythmia coming, it delivers an electrical current to restore the heart's rhythm. Like the pacemaker patients, they will stay overnight.
When you have a permanent pacemaker or ICD implanted, a record of insertion is sent to the Cardiac Device Clinic. This enables the staff there to contact you and arrange an appointment at the Clinic. At the time of insertion, a temporary card is given to you. This has information regarding the type of pacemaker or ICD you have, and should be carried with you at all times. A permanent card is mailed to you by the pacemaker manufacturer in about 3 - 6 months.
Upon discharge from the hospital you should make an appointment to see your cardiologist in four to six weeks. Six weeks following your pacemaker or ICD insertion, you will have an appointment at the Cardiac Device Clinic. You will receive the appointment in the mail and/or by phone. The Cardiac Device Clinic will arrange for further follow-up appointments, usually every six months. When you visit the Cardiac Device Clinic, the staff will check your progress by:
They will check your pacemaker or ICD by:
- taking an electrocardiogram to assess that it is pacing appropriately
- interrogating or "reading" information from the pacemaker with an electronic device held over the pulse generator - this checks function and battery life
- checking that the system lead and cables are intact
- programming the amount of energy the battery puts out to efficiently pace the heart; this helps to conserve battery life
- the Cardiac Device Clinic staff will record the model and serial number and the type of pacemaker or ICD into a computer for future reference.
The Cardiac Device Clinic staff is always available and is an excellent resource to provide support and information regarding your permanent pacemaker or ICD.