Pre-procedure common questions

Alert Important Safety Information

What is a pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a small device that monitors the heart and sends an electrical impulse to pace the heart when its rhythm is interrupted, irregular, or too slow.

What are pacemakers used to treat?

Pacemakers are most commonly used to treat a slow or irregular heart rate. Bradycardia, a condition in which the heart beats too slowly, is commonly treated by pacing devices.  

How do I know if I need a pacemaker?

Your doctor will assess your condition and determine whether a pacemaker is right for you. Common bradycardia symptoms include:

  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

Talk to your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms.

How does a pacemaker work?

A pacemaker is designed to mimic the heart’s natural rhythm when there are disturbances, such as pauses, in the natural rhythm. The pacemaker has two main purposes — pacing and sensing.

  • Pacing: A pacemaker will send an electrical impulse to the heart when the heart’s own rhythm is too slow or interrupted.
  • Sensing: A pacemaker will also “sense” (monitor) the heart’s natural electrical or mechanical activity. When the pacemaker senses a natural heartbeat, it will not deliver a pacing pulse.

What does a pacemaker look like?

It depends on the type of pacemaker:

  • Traditional pacemakers are a small, round devices about the size of a tea bag and include leads — thin, soft, insulated wires about the size of a spaghetti noodle — which are connected directly to the heart and deliver the electrical impulse from the pacemaker.
  • Leadless pacemakers are less than a tenth of the size of traditional pacemakers and are the approximate shape and size of a large vitamin capsule. These devices do not require leads, as they are implanted directly into the heart through a minimally invasive procedure to deliver pacing therapy.
Traditional pacemaker with leads on a white background

Traditional pacemaker

Small leadless pacemaker without leads on a white background

Leadless pacemaker

Small vitamin capsule that is half blue in color shown on a white background


My doctor told me I need a pacemaker — can I receive a leadless option?

Only your doctor can determine if you are eligible for a leadless pacemaker. If you’ve been told you need a pacemaker, it’s important to talk to your doctor about which option is right for you.

Pace of Mind is a Medtronic educational initiative about new leadless pacing options for patients.