My mother has an artificial pacemaker implanted permanently under the skin of her chest. This is necessary since she has been found to be suffering from arrhythmia – specifically, slow heart rates – as a result of heart block. This device restores in her a reliable heartbeat.
The heartbeat’s rate, according to cardiologists, normally varies between sixty and one hundred and twenty per minute. This depends on how physically and emotionally active a person is at any given moment. For example, the heart of an average healthy person beats about seventy-two times per minute.
Irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia (a rate abnormally slow or abnormally fast, or a rate which suddenly changes), can happen in either a normal or a diseased heart. Cardiologists say that such changes of the heart’s rhythm are significant, then, only as they develop in conjunction with some actual disease, or as the change may handicap the heart’s ability in providing the necessary blood to the tissues of the body.
When sudden changes in heartbeat do take place in persons with normal hearts, they often experience such symptoms as an aching in the heart area or a feeling of weakness. Acute infections, disease of the thyroid gland, rheumatic heart disease, and advanced coronary artery disease are some of the diseases that may be associated with arrhythmia. For people with slow heart rates resulting from heart block (as in my mother’s case), the permanent infixation of an artificial pacemaker can restore a reliable heartbeat.
An artificial pacemaker is a small, battery-operated electronic device (about two centimeters thick and five centimeters in diameter) which is surgically implanted under the skin of the chest (also sometimes under the skin of the abdomen). This device is connected with electrodes that are placed inside the heart’s chambers by a wire running through the blood vessels. These electrodes produce artificial pacing signals that stimulate the heart to beat normally.
Different types of artificial pacemakers work differently. Some types, for example, stimulate the heart only when its rate drops below a certain set level. Other types stimulate the heart at every beat. Thus, the exact functions that an artificial pacemaker performs are: it monitors the heartbeat and electronically corrects it when it’s erratic.
If you have an artificial pacemaker, it is important that your doctor checks its performance every so often. The type of artificial pacemaker implanted on my mother runs on lithium batteries which last for about five years.
Some types are known to be sensitive to electrical interference. If this is true in what you’re using, it is best to avoid using such common household devices as electric shavers or microwave ovens. This means that you also have to stay away from radio transmitters and telephone transformers, or avoid going through security systems at certain facilities or establishments.