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School of Medicine
A pacemaker is used primarily to correct some types of bradycardia, or slow heart rhythms.
How does the pacemaker work?
The pacemaker is implanted in the body, usually below the collarbone, where it monitors the heart rhythm and triggers an electrical impulse if the heart is beating too slowly. The pacemaker is composed of a small titanium encased pulse generator that contains a lithium battery and electrical circuitry attached to one, two, or three leads (wires) that are inserted into the heart. Pacemaker pulse generators are checked two to three times a year and must be replaced every five to ten years.
How is the pacemaker implanted?
Pacemaker implantation takes about one to three hours in the EP lab.
- A one to two-inch incision is made beneath the collarbone and a small “pocket” is created for the pulse generator under the skin.
- The leads are inserted into the heart through a large vein that runs under the collarbone. Once the leads are positioned in the heart, they are attached to the pulse generator.
- During the procedure the nurse will give you pain medication and a sedative to be certain you are comfortable.
- You will receive detailed follow-up instructions before you leave the hospital. It is important that you follow these instructions and call your doctor or nurse with any questions.
You will also need to carry a pacemaker ID card with you. It contains useful manufacturer specific details regarding your device for medical personnel.