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