Doctors use a pacemaker when an individual's heart beats too slowly or irregularly, according to MedlinePlus. It is a small, battery-operated device that is surgically implanted under a patient's skin and automatically sends signals to the heart to help it beat regularly.
When a patient's heart beats too slowly, the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen, states MedlinePlus. This could lead to symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath or fainting. A pacemaker automatically detects abnormalities in a patient's heart rate and sends electrical pulses into the heart through small wires. The electrical pulses stimulate the heart to beat when it receives the signal, causing the patient's heart rate to stabilize. Some types of pacemakers are able to slow the heart when it is beating too fast or can be used in patients with severe heart failure to get both sides of the heart to beat in unison.
Pacemakers are usually very effective in maintaining an individual's heart rhythm, states MedlinePlus. The batteries that come with the pacemaker last between six and 15 years. The doctor also keeps a close eye on the battery, changing it when needed. Individuals who receive a pacemaker are given a card with specific details of the pacemaker as well as contact information in case of emergencies. Patients with pacemakers should always carry this card wherever they go.