Ask the Experts

Give the Heart Rhythm

dr. john respass
John T. Respass, MD, FACC
More about Dr. Respass

When is device implantation needed?
Device implantation is used to treat patients who need assistance to keep their heart rhythms steady. Some of these patients are vulnerable to sudden death without assistance of the implantation device. Patients often exhibit symptoms of shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting. Some have already presented with heart issues and their doctors determine that regular rhythms can only be reached with an implanted device.

 

What is the difference between a pacemaker and a defibrillator?
Pacemakers treat heart rhythms, which are inappropriately slow. They are used for patients with arrhythmias to help patients reach a normal heart rate. Pacemakers are placed in the chest or abdomen and send low-energy electrical pulses to the heart to keep it beating properly. Pacemaker procedures take about 40 minutes. Defibrillators are used for patients who are vulnerable to sudden death. Often ER personnel use the AED device to bring a heart back to a normal rhythm. When that rhythm cannot be maintained because of damage or disease, patients receive a device implanted under the skin to help prevent injury or death.

 

What is cardiac ablation?
Cardiac ablation also corrects arrhythmias. Doctors use catheters, which are often inserted through the leg, to reach your heart and give it a more regular rhythm. The most common patients for this treatment are middle aged or older who suffer from palpitations. Often the ablation can permanently fix the issue by changing the electric system inside the heart. The procedure takes between one and a half and eight hours and is done as an outpatient. The majority of patients go home the same day. Since it is all done with an IV there is nothing that needs to heal. We suggest patients not do any heavy lifting for five days; otherwise they can resume regular activities.

 

Are microwaves and other household devices a problem?
NO. In the past when devices were unipolar with less sophisticated computers, they were more vulnerable. Devices are checked every three months. They have batteries that last 8-12 years, making them easy maintenance. When a battery needs to be changed, it is an outpatient procedure, which lasts about 15 minutes.

 

How are pacemakers and defibrillators monitored?
In this modern day, patients have a piece of monitoring equipment in their home, which communicates wirelessly with the device clinic. Pacemakers are monitored intermittently. Defibrillators, since they are a bit more sophisticated, are monitored daily. The device will call within 24 hours to let a doctor know the patient needs to be evaluated.

 

After these procedures, can patients resume a normal lifestyle?
Yes, that is the intention. These procedures are designed to prevent the patients’ disease from interfering with their quality of life and activities. There is a short recovery time in which patients have some restrictions. Patients are evaluated a couple of times within the first month of a procedure to determine when they can go back to normal activities. Often, they have restrictions about how much to use the left arm and how high to lift it for about a month.


Vassar Brothers Medical Center
The Heart Center, a division of Hudson Valley Cardiovascular Practice, P.C.
1 Columbia Street Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
845-473-1188
TTY /Accessibility: 800-421-1220
www.healthquest.org/heartcenter‚Äč


Read Past Topics from Dr. Respass:
Cardiac Electrophysiology Keeps the Beat


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