Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Health Care and Pace Makers

Pacemakers for the heart are a tremendous health asset for individuals who suffer from certain irregular heart beats. A pacemaker is a small device that's placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. This device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate. Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmias, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Arrhythmias are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.

A heartbeat that's too fast is called tachycardia. A heartbeat that's too slow is called bradycardia. During an arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. This may cause symptoms such as fatigue (tiredness), shortness of breath, or fainting. Severe arrhythmias can damage the body's vital organs and may even cause loss of consciousness or death. A pacemaker can relieve some arrhythmia symptoms, such as fatigue and fainting. A pacemaker also can help a person who has abnormal heart rhythms resume a more active lifestyle.

According to the Mayo Clinic, normal aging of the heart may disrupt your heart rate, making it beat too slowly. Heart muscle damage resulting from a heart attack is another common cause of disruptions of your heartbeat. Some medications can affect your heart rate as well. For some, genetic conditions cause an abnormal heart rate. Regardless of the underlying cause of an abnormal heart rate, a pacemaker may fix it. A pacemaker can often be implanted in your chest with a minor surgery. You may need to take some precautions in your daily life after your pacemaker is installed.

Your heart has its own internal electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. With each heartbeat, an electrical signal spreads from the top of your heart to the bottom. As the signal travels, it causes the heart to contract and pump blood, according to the NHLBI. Faulty electrical signaling in the heart causes arrhythmias. A pacemaker uses low-energy electrical pulses to overcome this faulty electrical signaling. Pacemakers can:

--Speed up a slow heart rhythm.
--Help control an abnormal or fast heart rhythm.
--Make sure the ventricles contract normally if the atria are quivering instead of beating with a normal rhythm (a condition called atrial fibrillation).
--Coordinate the electrical signaling between the upper and lower chambers of the heart.
--Coordinate the electrical signaling between the ventricles. Pacemakers that do this are called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. CRT devices are used to treat heart failure.
--Prevent dangerous arrhythmias caused by a disorder called long QT syndrome.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), some are permanent (internal) and some are temporary (external). They can replace a defective natural pacemaker or blocked pathway. A pacemaker uses batteries to send electrical impulses to the heart to help it pump properly. An electrode is placed next to the heart wall and small electrical charges travel through the wire to the heart. Most pacemakers are demand pacemakers. They have a sensing device. It turns the signal off when the heartbeat is above a certain level. It turns the signal back on when the heartbeat is too slow. If you have an artificial pacemaker, be aware of your surroundings and the devices that may interfere with pulse generators--cell phones, medical equipment, and home appliances to name a few. More info is available at this site: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4676.

Although life-threatening complications of pacemaker implantation are rare, there are certain risks when having a pacemaker implanted. Complications from having surgery to implant your pacemaker are uncommon, but could include:

--Infection where the pacemaker was implanted.
--Allergic reaction to the dye or anesthesia used during your procedure.
--Swelling, bruising or bleeding at the generator site, especially if you are taking blood thinners.
--Damage to your blood vessels or nerves near the pacemaker.
--Collapsed lung.
--Puncture of your heart muscle, which can lead to bleeding into the lining (pericardium) of your heart and may require emergency medical care.

The Mayo Clinic has valuable information on what to expect about having a pacemaker available at this site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pacemaker/MY00276/DSECTION=what-you-can-expect. Once your pacemaker is implanted, it should last five to 10 years, which is the average battery life. When a pacemaker's battery wears out, the entire pacemaker's pulse generator is replaced, and you'll need another procedure to fix your device. The leads of your pacemaker can be left in place, and the procedure to change your pacemaker's battery is often quicker and requires less recovery time than the procedure to first implant your pacemaker. Pacemakers are a standard treatment for many conditions affecting your heart's electrical system. By preventing a slow heart rate, pacemakers can treat symptoms, such as fatigue, lightheadedness and fainting. Because most of today's pacemakers automatically adjust your heart rate to match your level of physical activity, they can allow you to resume a more active lifestyle.

If you have a pacemaker and become terminally ill with a condition unrelated to your heart, such as cancer, it's possible that your pacemaker could prolong the process of dying. Doctors and researchers have varied opinions on turning off a pacemaker in end-of-life situations, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you have a pacemaker implanted and are concerned about turning off your pacemaker, talk to your doctor. You may also want to talk to family members or another person designated to make medical decisions for you about what you'd like to do in end-of-life care situations.
 
Key points about pace makers can be found on the NHLBI's site: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/pace/pace_keypoints.html. This website has a very good overview as well as great details concerning pace makers.
 
Your doctor can provide more information about pacemakers and refer you to a cardiologist for more tests. If your heart is suffering from an irregular heartbeat, a pacemaker can make a huge difference in your health and your quality of life. Visit your primary care physician for an initial diagnosis if you feel that you may be experiencing this medical issue. You only have one heart. Keep it safe.
 
Until next time.

1 comment:

Kaneohe said...

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