A pacemaker is a small electrical device
which is used to treat some abnormal heart rhythms that can cause
your heart to beat too slowly or miss beats. Some pacemakers can
also help the chambers of your heart beat in time.
Why do I need a pacemaker?
You may need to have an artificial pacemaker fitted if:
- you have a particular type of heart block - a delay in the
electrical conduction through the heart that can make the heart
beat too slowly
- your heart beats too fast, which is not
effectively controlled by medication
- you have heart failure, which may
cause your heart to pump out of synch.
Having a pacemaker can greatly improve your quality of life and
for some people it can be life saving.
Most pacemakers are very reliable and comfortable. They're
smaller than an average matchbox and weigh about 20 to 50 grams. A
pacemaker sits just under your collar bone and will have one
or more leads which are placed into your heart through a vein.
Pacemakers used to be much bigger, you can read how we helped
change that in our heart health
A pacemaker has a pulse generator - a battery
powered electronic circuit - and one or more electrode leads:
- pacemakers with one lead are called single chamber
- pacemakers with with two leads are called dual chamber
- pacemakers with three leads are called biventricular
Your doctor will discuss which is the most suitable type of
pacemaker for you and this will depend on the reasons why you need
to have one.
How do they work?
Your heart’s sinus node sends an
electrical impulse to make your heart beat.The job
of a pacemaker is to artificially take over the role of your
heart's natural pacemaker, the sinus node. Electrical
impulses are sent by the pacemaker to stimulate your
heart to contract and produce a heartbeat. Most pacemakers work
just when they’re needed - on demand. Some pacemakers send out
impulses all of the time - this is called fixed rate.
Pacemakers do not give your heart an electrical shock.
How are pacemakers fitted?
Pacemakers are fitted under a local anaesthetic with sedation,
so you’ll feel very sleepy. After the pacemaker is fitted, you’ll
usually stay overnight in hospital and your pacemaker will be
checked thoroughly before you leave. Serious complications from
pacemakers are very unusual.
How quickly will I recover?
It’s normal to feel tired for a few days afterwards, but most
people find that they are able to get back to their normal
lifestyle fairly quickly. You’re not allowed to drive a car for at
least a week after your pacemaker is fitted.
Who can I talk to?
It’s important that you and your family understand why you’re
having a pacemaker fitted and what the operation involves. It’s
also important that you understand what to expect in hospital
before, during and after your operation during your recovery.
It’s natural to feel worried, but it often helps to talk about your
feelings with someone close to you or with a healthcare
If you have any question or if anything is worrying you, talk to
your doctor or call our Heart Helpline
on 0300 330 3311 (you’ll be charged a local call
You can also visit our Publications
section to download or order our booklet
Pacemakers for more information.
Setting the pace
One of the first things we ever did was to provide funding for
pacemaker research at St. George's Hospital. It was there in 1961
that cardiologist Aubrey Leatham and ace technician Geoffrey Davies
implanted the UK's first internal pacemaker.
Learn how our heart research
has led to breakthroughs in the treatment of irregular heart