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Learning About a Pacemaker for Heart Failure

What is a pacemaker for heart failure?

A pacemaker is a small device that is placed under the skin of your chest. It is powered by batteries. It has thin wires, called leads, that pass through a vein into your heart.

A pacemaker for heart failure is a biventricular pacemaker (say "by-ven-TRICK-yuh-ler"). Treatment that uses this type of pacemaker is called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT).

When you have heart failure, the lower chambers of your heart may not pump at the same time. The pacemaker sends painless electrical signals to your heart. These signals make the chambers pump at the same time. This can help your heart pump blood better and help you feel better.

Your pacemaker may be combined with an ICD, or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. It can control abnormal heart rhythms. This can prevent sudden death.

You may feel worried about having a pacemaker. This is common. It can help if you learn about how the pacemaker helps your heart. Talk to your doctor about your concerns.

How is a pacemaker put in place?

You will get medicine before the procedure. This helps you relax and helps prevent pain.

The doctor makes a cut in the skin just below your collarbone. The cut may be on either side of your chest. The doctor will put the pacemaker leads through the cut.

The leads go into a large blood vessel in the upper chest. Then the doctor will guide the leads through the blood vessel into different chambers of the heart.

The doctor will place the pacemaker under the skin of your chest. He or she will attach the leads to the pacemaker. Then the cut will be closed with stitches.

The procedure usually takes 2 to 3 hours. You may need to spend the night in the hospital.

What can you expect when you have a pacemaker?

A pacemaker can help your heart pump blood better. It may help you feel better so you can be more active. It also may help keep you out of the hospital and help you live longer.

You can live a normal, active life with a pacemaker. But you'll need to use certain electric devices with caution. Some devices have a strong electromagnetic field. This field can keep your pacemaker from working right for a short time. These devices include things in your home, garage, or workplace. Check with your doctor about what you need to avoid and what you need to keep a short distance away from your pacemaker. Many household and office electronics do not affect your pacemaker.

Your doctor will check your pacemaker regularly to make sure it's working right. Pacemaker batteries usually last 5 to 15 years before they need to be replaced.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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