What is a Permanent Pacemaker Implant?
The heart is located in the center of the chest, enclosed by the breastbone and rib cage. By contracting in a rhythmic way, it causes the blood in your body to circulate. A normally functioning heart beats at a rate of between 60 and 100 contractions per minute.
These contractions are triggered by a small piece of heart tissue called the SA node. The SA node generates a small electrical signal that is transmitted by nerves to the surrounding muscle. These electrical impulses are what cause the heart muscle to contract.
In some people, the SA node fails to cause the heart to contract with its normal rhythm, causing an abnormal heartbeat or arrhythmia. The most common form of arrhythmia, for which pacemaker surgery is often recommended, is bradyarrythymia – or slow heart rate.
A pacemaker is a device that is designed to provide an electrical signal to the heart muscle and to help it maintain a proper rhythm. There are several types of pacemakers and the particular model selected for you will be based on your specific condition. But all pacemakers share a common design.
Your pacemaker will consist of two major pieces . . . a small metal box that contains a battery and other electronic components and an insulated wire, called a lead, which will carry the electrical impulses from the pacemaker to the heart.
Your pacemaker will be permanently implanted in your chest and, depending on your condition, either one or two leads will be attached to the heart muscle.
What to expect for your procedure:
On the day of your operation, you will be asked to put on a surgical gown.
You may receive a sedative by mouth and an intravenous line may be put in.
You will then be transferred to the operating table.
To begin, skin is swabbed with an antiseptic solution and a sterile drape will be placed around the operative site.
Then the surgeon will make a small skin incision in the upper chest, just below the collarbone.
A pocket is then created between the skin and the tissue that covers the chest muscle.
Next, the team will use instruments called retractors to hold back the skin and underlying tissue. They’ll locate a large blood vessel called the subclavian vein.
Using a special needle and syringe, your doctor will puncture the wall of the vein.
A thin guide wire is then inserted through the needle and into the vein. Your doctor gently pushes the wire until it reaches the heart.
Using an instrument called a fluoroscope the surgical team is able to see the wire’s progress through the vein and into the beating heart.
Once the wire is in place, the needle is removed and a catheter – or hollow tube – is passed over the guide wire and into the heart.
One or two leads are then passed through the catheter.
When the lead or leads are in their proper position, the catheter is removed.
Finally, the lead is connected to the pacemaker, the pacemaker is inserted into the pocket below the collar bone and the incision is closed.