Speeding up a slow heat

Understanding Pacemakers

What is it?

Pacemakers are used in patients who have bradycardia—a slow heart beat that may occur as a result of disease in the heart's conduction system. When the pacemaker detects that your heart rate is too slow, it emits electrical impulses. Each of these impulses triggers your heart to beat, helping it to speed up and attain a more regular rhythm.

A pacemaker may also be used to treat fainting spells, congestive heart failure and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

How is it done?

Pacemakers are implanted during a simple surgical procedure. The implantation of a pacemaker is done by an electrophysiologist, a doctor who specializes in heart rhythm disorders.

You are given medication through an IV to help you relax, but you remain awake during the procedure. You are also given an anesthetic to numb the skin at the site of the incision. Your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored throughout the procedure.

An incision is made just under your left collarbone. The leads (wires) from the pacemaker are directed down your veins until they make contact with your heart. The other ends of the leads attach to the generator of the pacemaker, which is placed in a pocket created beneath your skin.

The surgery to place a pacemaker typically takes from two to three hours.

When your pacemaker is operational, it will monitor your heart to determine if it is beating too slow. If it detects a slow heart beat, the pacemaker will emit a series of electrical impulses to bring your heart back up to a normal pace.


The surgery to have a pacemaker implanted is considered very safe and complications are rare. The following are some of the risks of having a pacemaker implanted:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to medications
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Swelling
  • Damage to veins
  • Bleeding around the heart
  • Blood leaking in heart at the site of leads

Technology and expertise at Lee Health

Lee Health offers the most advanced and effective heart rhythm treatments to our patients. In 2016, Lee Health performed approximately 2600 electrophysiology procedures.

We have two fully equipped electrophysiology labs and one dedicated implant room. They are staffed by nurses and technicians who work exclusively on heart rhythm disorders.

View this topic in our Health Encylopedia.

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