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When Should I Replace My Pacemaker?

When Should I Replace My Pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a miraculous device that can lengthen your life, which is great news! However, pacemakers are battery-operated. Eventually, you’ll probably need surgery to replace your pacemaker so it continues to work properly. 

At Heart & Vascular Institute in Dearborn, Detroit, and Southfield, Michigan, our team of dedicated cardiologists provides meticulous follow-up care after a pacemaker is implanted. That includes letting you know when to expect surgery to replace your pacemaker. 

How long your batteries last depends on the type of pacemaker and other individual factors. In this post, we provide general information about pacemakers and how long they last. 

How your pacemaker works

Just as there are many types of pacemakers, there are many reasons to have one implanted. In many cases, a pacemaker is needed to regulate heart rhythm. Irregular heart rhythms are called arrhythmias, and there are different types. 

If you have a slow heartbeat, for example, a type of arrhythmia called bradycardia, a pacemaker can help your heart beat at a more suitable pace. A too-fast heart rhythm is called tachycardia. 

A modern pacemaker may also serve as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which corrects dangerous, chaotic, and fast heart rhythms. 

Your pacemaker tracks your heartbeat all the time, but only activates when something is wrong. If your pacemaker detects a too-slow heartbeat, it sends tiny electrical signals through wires (called leads) from the battery to your heart to restore a proper rhythm. 

If your pacemaker detects tachycardia, it functions as a defibrillator and shocks your heart back to a normal rhythm. 

The parts of your pacemaker

Can you imagine placing a battery in warm salt water for a week? What about for years? Even though modern batteries are amazing, they can’t function that way forever. Yet, that’s exactly what happens to the battery in your pacemaker. 

A pacemaker has two parts: the small computer that contains the batteries and monitor, and the leads that touch your heart. The computer portion is usually implanted just under your collarbone in a small pocket of your chest muscle. The leads go through a vein to your heart. 

Because pacemakers are implanted in human bodies, they must operate in a warm, wet, salty environment. For a pacemaker to function properly, the battery must be in a sealed capsule, and that’s how the computer part of your pacemaker is made. 

Pacemaker monitoring

At Heart & Vascular Institute, we don’t just implant a pacemaker and forget about it. Instead, pacemakers constantly send information via the internet or phone. If your pacemaker has to stimulate your heart, we know about it. We also can manually check your pacemaker’s function. 

Along with monitoring your heartbeat, your pacemaker is designed to monitor its own battery life. Most modern pacemakers last 5-15 years. Generally, your device alerts us well in advance of a possible battery failure so you have plenty of time to schedule replacement surgery. 

If you’ve had your pacemaker for a few years and you’re wondering when you might need a replacement, call or use the online booking tool to schedule a visit at the Heart & Vascular Institute location nearest you.

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