All of the Tchefuncte Cardiovascular Associates (TCA) physicians have experience in the placement of pacemakers and Automatic Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (AICDs).
A pacemaker is a small unit that uses batteries to help your heart beat more regularly. It does this with a small electric shock that helps control your heartbeat. The physician puts the pacemaker under the skin on your chest, just under your collarbone. It's hooked to your heart with tiny wires or leads. The leads sense the heartbeat and deliver tiny electric charges that you can't feel. Typically the pacemaker works only when needed.
You may need a pacemaker to keep your heart contracting and pumping blood. This way your body gets the blood, oxygen, and food that it needs. Some people just need a pacemaker for a short time (like a heart attack) and may use a temporary pacemaker outside the skin.
Sometimes people with Congestive Heart Failure benefit from a "biventricular" pacemaker that helps both of the heart's lower chambers to beat at the same time, increasing the amount of blood pumped out of the heart. Consequently, the signs and symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure greatly diminish. The timing of the contractions can be improved after the pacemaker is implanted, using echocardiogram images and a pacemaker analyzer that reprograms the pacemaker. TCA cardiologists and staff have significant training in this area and have achieved exceptional results.
An AICD is a lifesaving device that's put inside your body. This device is very similar to a pacemaker, but can deliver shocks to the heart to return the heartbeat to normal. It senses whether the heartbeat is normal or dangerous. Then the device will respond to the heartbeat it senses by shocking when appropriate. These devices prevent sudden death.
- Your heart beats too slow
- Your heart doesn't beat regularly
- There's a block in your heart's electrical pathways
- You have deadly rhythm disturbances that have been experienced or were present during an electrophysiological test (a test performed in the cardiac catherization lab to determine how well the heart's electrical system works and whether these deadly rhythms can occur).
- You may have symptoms such as fainting, blackouts, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, weakness, fatigue, and cardiac arrest.
- TCA has a Pacemaker/AICD Clinic, currently with over 500 patients.
- The Clinic is staffed by specially trained healthcare providers to check how well your pacemaker is working and to give you information. Your TCA cardiologist will review all test results and make adjustments to your pacemaker as needed.
- Typically pacemakers are checked over a phone line every 3 months after implantation. Once a year you will be scheduled to come to the office for a complete analysis. A pacemaker specialist will check your pacemaker with a computer. Adjustments can be made to the pacemaker through the computer.
- AICDs are checked with a full computer analysis every 3 months after implant. These devices are very sophisticated and require close monitoring. Certain models can be checked with a special device using a telephone plug. Consequently the computer analysis in the office is only required once a year. This program is known as Carelink.
- These tests can also determine when you need new batteries. The battery life varies, depending on the pacemaker/AICD and how often the device is used.
- Battery replacement is a minor outpatient procedure.
- Keep your pacemaker/AICD check appointments and your physician visits.
- Take your medications the way your physician tells you.
- Notify the TCA staff if you have trouble breathing, if you gain weight or get puffy legs or ankles, or if you faint, blackout, or get dizzy.
- Carry your ID card.
- If you go to the hospital, tell the staff you have this device.
- Tell airport security that you have this device. They should not use a magnetic wand for a security check.
- Household microwaves and electricity DO NOT affect your pacemaker/AICD. If you work around industrial microwaves, electricity, transformers, cars, or large motors, consult your cardiologist or Pacemaker Clinic staff for specific instructions.