What is a Pacemaker Procedure? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
A pacemaker permanently monitors the heart's rhythm in both the atria and ventricles.
A pacemaker permanently monitors the heart's rhythm in both the atria and ventricles.

A pacemaker procedure is a surgical procedure performed to implant a pacemaker, a device that regulates heart rhythm. Many different models of pacemaker are available, along with devices that include a defibrillator to shock the heart back into rhythm. This surgery is performed in a hospital or cardiac lab and is usually done by a cardiac surgeon, a specialist with extensive training in heart surgery. Throughout the surgery, the patient is monitored by nurses and anesthesia personnel.

A patient will meet with a cardiologist to determine the need and risk of a pacemaker procedure.
A patient will meet with a cardiologist to determine the need and risk of a pacemaker procedure.

For many pacemaker procedures, the surgery can be done using local anesthesia and sedation. This reduces the risks and shortens recovery time. For others, general anesthesia may be necessary. In both cases, patients meet with the cardiologist before the procedure to talk about the surgery, go over risks and benefits, and discuss the patient's medical history and current medications to identify any risk factors or areas of concern.

Patients who experience irregularities in their heart rhythm may need the assistance of a pacemaker.
Patients who experience irregularities in their heart rhythm may need the assistance of a pacemaker.

In an endocardial pacemaker procedure, the surgeon works through the patient's veins to implant the device, and the attached generator is placed in the chest. Epicardial procedures involve a generator in the abdomen, and require general anesthesia for safety. The length of the surgery varies, and the patient can usually go home the next day, after becoming fully conscious, eating, and drinking. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to prevent infection and the patient will be given an instruction sheet with information on wound care, reminding the patient to keep the wound dry and clean.

Most epicardial procedures require the anesthesiologist to administer general anesthesia.
Most epicardial procedures require the anesthesiologist to administer general anesthesia.

The risks associated with a pacemaker procedure are very low. Significant improvements have been made in cardiac surgery and the technology behind pacemakers. Minimally invasive surgery allows a doctor to access the needed areas of the body without large incisions, and shortens recovery time, as well as reducing the risk of infection. Pain levels are typically low after the procedure and the patient can be given pain medication to manage breakthrough pain associated with the incision site.

When a pacemaker procedure is recommended, people may want to ask about the risks and benefits of using a pacemaker. It is also advisable to ask about any restrictions associated with having a pacemaker implanted. After the surgery, patients will be given an informational card to carry. It is important to keep this card convenient at all times and to make sure that law enforcement and medical personnel are aware that a patient uses a pacemaker. Periodic checkups after the pacemaker procedure will be required for a doctor to confirm that the device is working properly and has not migrated.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • A pacemaker permanently monitors the heart's rhythm in both the atria and ventricles.
      A pacemaker permanently monitors the heart's rhythm in both the atria and ventricles.
    • A patient will meet with a cardiologist to determine the need and risk of a pacemaker procedure.
      A patient will meet with a cardiologist to determine the need and risk of a pacemaker procedure.
    • Patients who experience irregularities in their heart rhythm may need the assistance of a pacemaker.
      Patients who experience irregularities in their heart rhythm may need the assistance of a pacemaker.
    • Most epicardial procedures require the anesthesiologist to administer general anesthesia.
      Most epicardial procedures require the anesthesiologist to administer general anesthesia.