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Pacemaker and Defibrillator Implantation

At the Lawrence + Memorial Cardiac Catheterization Lab, cardiologists perform procedures to implant pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. Loop recorders for long-term heart rhythm monitoring are also implanted.

What is a pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a small electrical device that is implanted in your body to help your heart beat regularly. It may be needed when your heart's internal pacemaker is not working effectively on its own and beating too slowly (bradycardia) or irregularly. Symptoms that may indicate this problem include significant shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, or suddenly losing consciousness (syncope). A pacemaker is inserted through a vein and delivered to the heart.

What is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)?

While an ICD is similar to a pacemaker, it also continuously monitors heart rhythm. If a patient experiences a life-threatening rhythm (arrhythmia), the ICD can treat that rhythm, sometimes with a high-energy shock. ICD implantation is usually recommended for survivors of cardiac arrest, or for people with congestive heart failure. It may also be recommended for certain arrhythmias including ventricular tachycardia. The process for determining whether an ICD is the right choice for a particular patient starts with a visit with their cardiologist or electrophysiologist.

What is cardiac resynchronization therapy?

Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is a specialized pacemaker or defibrillator for patients with congestive heart failure and other heart rhythm abnormalities, such as a left bundle branch block. CRT can help restore normal electrical flow through the heart and thereby improve heart function and pumping efficiency. CRT can also improve congestive heart failure symptoms and life expectancy.

What is a loop recorder?

A loop recorder is used for long-term heart rhythm monitoring. It is a very small piece of metal that is inserted under the skin to record a patient’s heart rhythm continuously for up to three years. It can aid in the diagnosis of arrhythmias that occur infrequently. The recorder implant procedure is quite brief and requires only local anesthesia in the skin.