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What does a pacemaker do?

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Quick Answer

Pacemakers are surgical implants that supply electrical impulses directly to the heart to stabilize the heart rate and vitalize the heart's lower chambers, according to Cleveland Clinic. The devices treat heart rhythm imbalances caused by heart disease. Pacemakers may also be utilized as a treatment method for fainting spells.

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Full Answer

Pacemakers are implanted directly beneath the skin of the chest and consist of two parts, according to WebMD. The pulse generator consists of a minuscule computer and battery that connect to wires that are inserted into the veins that travel into the heart. The wires, also referred to as leads, are implanted inside of the heart muscle. Pulses that are emitted from the generator travel through the wires and stimulate the heart. During the implant procedure, the doctor programs the pacemaker to the patient's minimum heart rate. If at any time the heart falls below the programmed rate, the pacemaker kicks in and sends an electrical impulse through the leads.

Complications of pacemaker implantation can include infections, irregular heart rhythms and bleeding, explains MedlinePlus, along with rare complications such as punctured lungs and heart punctures. Following surgery, patients are often advised to avoid heavy lifting and overuse of the arm for up to three weeks. Pacemaker batteries are designed to last between six and 15 years.

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