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Learning About a Leadless Pacemaker

Catheter moves through blood vessel from groin to heart's right ventricle, with detail of right ventricle

What is a leadless pacemaker?

A leadless pacemaker is a small, battery-powered device. It sends mild electrical signals to your heart. This keeps the heart beating normally. These signals are painless. The pacemaker can help stop the dizziness, fainting, and shortness of breath caused by a slow heart rate.

A leadless pacemaker is a newer type of pacemaker. It's called leadless because no wires connect it to the heart. It's placed in the heart's right ventricle, which is one of the heart's lower chambers. A leadless pacemaker may not an option for everyone. Other kinds of pacemakers are placed under the skin of the chest. Those types are connected to the heart by wires.

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 if you have concerns.

How is it put in place?

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

Your doctor doesn't need to make any cuts to do the procedure. Instead, he or she uses a thin tube called a catheter. The pacemaker is placed inside the catheter. The doctor puts the catheter into a blood vessel in your groin. You will get a shot to numb the skin where the catheter goes in.

Then the doctor moves the catheter through the blood vessel to the right ventricle of your heart. You may feel pressure when the doctor does this. Your doctor may also have injected a dye into your blood vessel and heart. The dye shows up on a screen. It helps your doctor see where to move the catheter and pacemaker.

When the catheter is inside the right ventricle, the doctor moves the pacemaker out of the catheter. He or she attaches the pacemaker to the heart tissue so that it doesn't move. Flexible hooks may be used. Then the catheter is removed from your body.

The procedure usually takes 30 to 40 minutes. Some people spend the night in the hospital, but some people are sent home that same day.

What can you expect?

A leadless pacemaker can help you return to a more normal, more active life.

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 tell you how often your pacemaker should be checked. This is to make sure that it's working right.

The battery life of a leadless pacemaker is up to 10 years or more. Its strength will be checked at follow-up visits. The battery can't be recharged. You will need a new pacemaker when the charge is too low.

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.

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