HOW PACEMAKERS WORK
Most pacemakers have two components: a pulse generator (called a device or can) and pacemaker leads. In addition to these two components, pacemaker treatment can include an external programmer (computer) that communicates with, programs or adjusts the settings of the pulse generator.
- Pulse generator: The pulse generator is about the size of two stacked silver dollars and weighs approximately 17 to 25 grams, the weight of four to five nickels. This device contains a battery, as well as circuitry, that send electrical impulses to the heart, stimulating it to beat at a normal rhythm. The pulse generator is usually implanted under the skin of the upper chest, although it is sometimes implanted under the skin of the abdomen.
- Pacemaker leads: Leads are thin, flexible insulated wires that run from the pulse generator to the heart. A lead detects your heart’s rhythm and transmits this information to the pulse generator, which responds in a way that is appropriate to that rhythm.
- Pacemaker programmer: A programmer is a computer designed especially to communicate with your pulse generator. In addition to a pacemaker’s two components, a pacemaker programmer is an important tool for adjusting your pacemaker to your particular needs. It is an external desktop computer that your doctor uses to download the information stored on your pacemaker, and to change your pacemaker’s settings, if necessary. This allows your doctor to adjust your therapy without requiring additional surgery.
Some pacemakers may also have the ability to communicate wirelessly with your hospital or clinic, conveying information for your doctor to read through remote monitoring without your having to leave home.