A pacemaker is a unit usually no bigger than a pocket watch that helps monitor and control the rate at which your heart beats. It is placed under the skin near your heart through a minor surgical procedure for patients at risk of heart rates that are too slow. There are both advantages and disadvantages to having the small device implanted.
The heart has a natural pacemaker that regulates whether the heart is beating too slowly or irregularly. When a person's heart is not beating fast enough or not regularly, it can lead to fatigue, fainting or shortness of breath. If the natural systems of your heart are failing to regulate heartbeat pacing, then the pacemaker uses electrical impulses to stimulate a faster rate.
A more complex pacemaker is the biventricular pacemaker that not only regulates the pace of the heart pumping blood throughout the body, but also helps improve heart pumping efficiency in patients who have had lower heart damage resulting from heart failure. The biventricular pacemaker works to ensure the ventricles and atria are working together. This is called cardiac resynchronization therapy.
With any surgical procedure, there are risks. Though the implantation of a pacemaker is considered a minor surgical procedure, according to the Mayo Clinic, it does pose several risks, although less than five percent of patients experience these. The risks include infection at the surgery location. Patients may be allergic to the anesthesia and experience swelling and bruising. More extreme risks include a collapsed lung or damage to blood vessels or nerves near the pacemaker implantation.
Once you have a pacemaker implanted, you will have a battery-operated metal device in your chest that is sensitive to electrical impulses internally and externally. The internal sensitivities are the pacemaker doing its job. The external sensitivities, though rare, can give your pacemaker a false signal. You will need to refrain from placing cell phones over your implantation. Security systems and power-generating equipment are also potential hazards for those with pacemakers. Any medical procedures using electromagnetic fields can interfere with your pacemaker. Carry an identification card with you stating you have a pacemaker.