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Should you or your loved one find yourselves with an arrhythmia problem, a pacemaker may be the solution. Pacemakers have come a long way in the past 40-plus years. Today, the worldwide implantation rate is more than 400,000 per year.

The technology has changed, too. Pacemakers are getting smaller and smaller, yet they give out more and more power for longer periods of time. Batteries in pacemakers should last five to ten years, giving patients an extra 8.5 years of life on average.

The surgery for implanting a pacemaker is fairly simple. Wires are snaked through veins to attach them to the heart and then to a small device—about the size of a pocket watch—near the collarbone. The machinery counteracts the arrhythmia and maintains a regular heartbeat. After implantation, and a brief hospital stay, a patient has to take it easy for about a month or so before taking on heavy lifting or strenuous exercising.

There are some risks involved with pacemakers. There can be damage to blood vessels near the nerves, and a lung can collapse. Like with other surgeries, there are bleeding, bruising and infection risks involved with surgery. After surgery, the pacemaker could give out. Patients might have to avoid being near machines, like cell phones, high tension wires, and MRI machines, which could throw off the delicate machinery of the pacemaker.

Pacemaker recipients need to wear medical jewelry, such as a bracelet, to alert medical professionals about the device or carry a medical ID card. Patients need to tell their other doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals about the pacemaker.

It is not uncommon for some patients to feel depressed or nervous after the implant operation. Many hospitals offer support groups for those living with heart disease and devise therapy. Other coping strategies include staying close to loved ones, focusing on positive, vibrant activities, and getting rest. Be sure to discuss any feelings of anxiety with your physician.

By and large, however, the pacemaker is a tried-and-true heartbeat maintenance machine that can help improve your or your loved one’s quality of life considerably. Most patients are able to exert themselves at the same levels they were able to before the arrhythmia or even more so.

Resource: St. Jude Medical