A pacemaker is a small device that’s placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. This device uses low-energy electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.
Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmias. 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.
Pacemakers can relieve some arrhythmia symptoms, such as fatigue (tiredness) and fainting. A pacemaker also can help a person who has abnormal heart rhythms resume a more active lifestyle.
Doctors also treat arrhythmias with implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). ICDs are similar to pacemakers. However, besides using low-energy electrical pulses to control abnormal heart rhythms, ICDs also can use high-energy electrical pulses to treat certain dangerous arrhythmias.
Doctors recommend pacemakers for a number of reasons. The most common reasons are bradycardia and heart block. Bradycardia is a slower than normal heartbeat. Heart block is a problem that occurs with the heart’s electrical system. The disorder occurs when an electrical signal is slowed or disrupted as it moves through the heart.
Before recommending a pacemaker, your doctor will consider any arrhythmia symptoms you have, such as dizziness, unexplained fainting, or shortness of breath. He or she also will consider whether you have a history of heart disease, what medicines you’re currently taking, and the results of heart tests.