Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) uses a special type of pacemaker called a biventricular pacemaker (say "by-ven-TRICK-yuh-ler") to treat heart failure. This pacemaker sends electrical pulses to make the ventricles pump at the same time.
A biventricular pacemaker is implanted in the chest, and it connects to three thin wires, called leads. The leads go into different chambers of your heart. If there is a problem with your heartbeat, the pacemaker sends a painless signal through the leads to fix the problem. The pacemaker also can speed up your heart if it is beating too slowly.
In some cases, you may get a pacemaker that is combined with a device to shock your heartbeat back to a normal rhythm if it is dangerously fast. The device is called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, or ICD. It can prevent sudden death.
Your doctor will put the pacemaker in your chest during minor surgery. You will not have open-chest surgery.
Your doctor makes a small cut (incision) in your chest. The doctor puts the leads in a vein and threads them to the heart. Then your doctor connects the leads to the pacemaker. Your doctor programs the pacemaker and then puts it in your chest and closes the incision.
Most people spend the night in the hospital, just to make sure that the device is working and that there are no problems from the surgery. But sometimes the procedure is done as an outpatient procedure, which means you don't need to stay overnight in the hospital.
You may be able to see a little bump under the skin where the pacemaker is placed.
When you have heart failure, the lower chambers of your heart (the ventricles) aren't able to pump as much blood as your body needs. Sometimes the heart has a problem with the electrical system that controls the pumping. This means the ventricles don't pump at the right time or the heart has an abnormal rhythm. A pacemaker for heart failure can help the heart pump blood better.
A pacemaker can help your heart pump blood better. It may help you feel better so you can be more active. It also may help keep you out of the hospital and help you live longer.
A pacemaker can slow the progression of heart failure. It can do this by helping the heart's electrical system work well and by changing the shape of your heart. In heart failure, the left ventricle often gets too big as it tries to make up for not pumping well. The pacemaker can slow down this change in your ventricle. It might even help your ventricle go back to a more normal size.
There are several risks to getting a pacemaker. But risks vary for each person. The chance of most problems is low.
The procedure to implant a pacemaker is safe, and most people do well afterward. Afterward, you will see your doctor regularly to check your pacemaker and make sure you don't have any problems.
If problems happen during the procedure, doctors likely can fix them right away.
Problems after the procedure can be minor, like mild pain, or serious, like an infection. But your doctor can solve most of these problems. And most people do not have long-term issues with their pacemakers.
Some activities and situations can interrupt the signals sent by the pacemaker to the heart. You may need to adapt some of your activities. Follow your doctor's specific instructions about care and precautions if you have a pacemaker.
If you get a pacemaker, you have to be careful not to get too close to some devices with strong magnetic or electrical fields. These include MRI machines, battery-powered cordless power tools, and CB or ham radios. But most everyday appliances are safe.
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Other Works Consulted
- Bogale N, et al. (2012). The European CRT survey: 1 year (9–15 months) follow-up results. European Journal of Heart Failure, 14(1): 61–73.
- Lampert R, et al. (2010). HRS Expert Consensus Statement on the Management of Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices (CIEDs) in patients nearing end of life or requesting withdrawal of therapy. Heart Rhythm, 7(7): 1008–1026. Available online: http://www.hrsonline.org/Policy/ClinicalGuidelines/upload/ceids_mgmt_eol.pdf.
Current as of: March 12, 2014
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