Heart and Vascular Center

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a pacemaker?

A pacemaker is a small, lightweight electronic device that is placed inside your body. The pacemaker keeps track of your heartbeat and when necessary generates electrical signals that keep your heart beating at the right pace. A pacemaker is generally made up of two parts:

  • A generator - contains the battery and electronic circuitry that continually monitors the heart rhythm and sends out electronic impulses to pace the heart when the heart’s own rhythm is interrupted, irregular or too slow. Today’s generators weigh a little less than an ounce. The pacemaker’s battery can last about 6-7 years. It will be checked regularly and replaced when necessary.
  • Leads – connect the heart to the generator sending the electrical impulses from the pacemaker to the heart telling it to beat.

A special type of pacemaker, called a biventricular pacemaker works on both sides of the heart. It restores the synchronization between the right and left chambers keeping them pumping together. All of today’s biventricular pacemakers can also work as an ICD.

What is an implantable cardio-defibrillator (ICD)?

An ICD is a small battery powered device that is implanted in people who have a risk of sudden cardiac death due to rapid heart beats often referred to as ventricular fibrillation. The device is programmed to identify cardiac arrhythmias and correct them by sending a jolt of electricity to the heart. The process of implantation of an ICD is similar to a pacemaker. The difference between a pacemaker and an ICD is that pacemakers are generally designed to correct a slow heart rate, and an ICD is a safeguard against a sudden fast abnormality.

What is an event monitor?

An event monitor is a device designed for evaluation of symptoms such as dizziness, palpitations and chest pain. A patient wears the event monitor day and night so it can continuously scan electrocardiogram (ECG) activity. The monitor is about the size of a pager. When a patient activates the monitor, a cardiac event about 1 minute in length is recorded and stored in solid state memory. St. Joseph Hospital has all the necessary equipment to check your ECG over the telephone. When you transmit your ECG over the telephone, it will be received and reviewed by an experienced nurse. A complete report of the transmission and your symptoms will be sent to your physician. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.