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What’s the difference between a pacemaker and defibrillator?

This blog article explains the difference between a defibrillator and a pacemaker and how each device can affect the quality of life of an individual.

Defibrillators and pacemakers are often used as a way to treat heart arrhythmias, but they do it in very different ways and have different risk factors.

In this article, we will answer the question, what’s the difference between a defibrillator and a pacemaker.

Defibrillator vs Pacemaker

Defibrillators are used to shock a person’s heart back into rhythm when it has stopped beating properly or is dangerously abnormal. Defibrillators use electricity to send an electric current through the chest wall and then down into the heart muscle, causing sudden contractions that can restore a regular heartbeat.

A pacemaker implant sends an electrical impulse to tell the heart when to beat faster or slower. It does this by sending these impulses through wires connected from one end of your upper chest near your neck, under your skin, and up to just below your collarbone on the other side of your chest. The device is implanted with a needle and then threaded through a vein up to your heart.

Newer Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) can function as either a pacemaker or, in an emergency, a defibrillator. Some ICDs also record the heart’s electrical patterns when there is an abnormal heartbeat. Having this information can help a doctor plan future treatment for a patient.

Defibrillator Types

We will focus on three types of defibrillators: an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), the more invasive Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), and Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (WCD), which is a less complicated treatment option.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs)

If a person is at risk of their heart going into V-fib, then an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) can be implanted for ongoing monitoring and treatment if needed. This device is designed to diagnose and restore a potentially fatal heart rhythm as quickly as possible and is implanted with a needle and then threaded through a vein up to your chest. An ICD works like a pacemaker although the ICD can send a low-energy shock that resets an abnormal heartbeat back to a normal. It can also send a high-energy shock if an arrhythmia becomes so severe that the heart can’t pump at all.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs)

Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

Automated External Defibrillator devices are crucial medical equipment for recognizing and treating sudden cardiac arrest, through delivering an electric shock quickly. They are placed in many public places, hospitals, shopping malls, schools, etc where individuals can be trained on how to use them which is why their presence is often called for when someone has a sudden cardiac event or arrhythmia. Most of this article will focus on ICD’s as a comparison to the pacemaker which is also

Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (WCD)

Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillators are new, FDA-approved devices designed to stop sudden cardiac arrhythmias. The device is similar to an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator but it’s worn externally. It will also work in conjunction with external defibrillators if needed, and like Defibrillators, they are crucial for recognizing sudden cardiac arrest through delivering electric shock quickly.

Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (WCD)

Who needs a Defibrillator?

A person may need a defibrillator if they have cardiac arrest or if they are experiencing sudden arrhythmias. Defibrillators can be used to shock a person’s heart back into rhythm, but their use is not limited to just this scenario. Defibrillator devices are typically found in public places where individuals need to know how the device works and when it should be used – such as malls, schools, etc. The American Heart Association states that Defibrillators should be placed in public places where there is a high risk of cardiac arrest.

Why Would You Need an ICD?

If your heart’s lower chambers, called the ventricles, are dangerously abnormal because of an irregular rhythm like ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation, you might need an ICD.

If you’ve had either a heart attack or cardiac arrest in the past, an ICD might be necessary.

Why Would You Need an ICD?

How Is an ICD Implanted?

Typically, ICD implant patients are given an antibiotic if there’s a risk of infection before surgery. Your doctors might ask you to discontinue certain medicines, such as blood thinners.

You will be given medicine to relax you and so that you feel no pain and anesthesia so that you are unconscious during the operation.

The doctor will place wires into your veins and thread them up to the heart. They will then place a small device under your breastbone to monitor your heart’s electrical system for abnormal rhythms, such as tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.

Risks of ICD Surgery

One of the potential risks of ICD surgery is bleeding or bruising, which can take place with any type of medical procedure. Other possible outcomes include:

  • Damage to a blood vessel, nerves, or heart
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Punctured or collapsed lung

Once your ICD is in place, it might shock your heart if it beats too fast. You may feel some tingly sensations and experience skipped or rapid heartbeat when the device shocks your heart; this should go away soon after. The actual sensation of being shocked feels intense,

One possible side effect of a defibrillator is getting shocked when you don’t need it. In that case, your doctor can reprogram the device to stop this from happening again.

Risks of ICD Surgery

What Is a Pacemaker?

Pacemaker implantation is a small device that’s implanted under your skin in your upper chest. It works by sensing when an abnormal heartbeat happens. When this occurs, the pacemaker sends a small electrical charge to your heart’s upper right chamber in order to regulate its rhythm.

Who needs a pacemaker?

You might need a pacemaker if you have arrhythmia which is when your heart beats too fast or not at all. In some cases, arrhythmia is a result of coronary artery disease and can be caused by:

– Defective electrical conduction in one part of the heart muscle

– Defects on valves that allow blood to flow into the ventricles (lower chambers)

– Defects on the atria (upper chambers)

– Defective conduction in one part of the heart muscle

– Dilated cardiomyopathy, a serious illness where your heart is enlarged and doesn’t work as well. This can be caused by viral infections or alcohol abuse.

Biventricular Pacemaker

A biventricular pacemaker is a device that can be implanted in the chest to regulate heart rhythm. They are used for people with serious arrhythmias, or if you had someone who has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and needs assistance regulating their heartbeat. This particular type of pacemaker helps improve blood circulation by sending low-energy impulses through the veins to your upper two chambers – the atria (upper chamber) and ventricles (lower chamber). It will also send higher voltage shocks when needed which usually happens after an attack on V-fib, predicting sudden cardiac arrest, or treating it once detected from an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.

Biventricular Pacemaker

How are Pacemakers Implanted?

When you have surgery, your doctor might ask you to take an antibiotic. You also need to eat before the procedure and stop taking other medications, such as blood thinners, 8 hours before your surgery.

The surgery will be done in a hospital. You’ll receive medication to make you comfortable and prevent pain.

To insert a pacemaker, the doctor will thread wires called leads through your blood vessels and into your heart. They may make a small cut on the left side of your chest and attach the pacemaker to just under the collarbone. The battery-operated device contains electronic circuits for monitoring rhythmic heartbeat patterns and is implanted under this area by surgery without disrupting vital structures such as blood vessels or nerves

Usually, the pacemaker will go on whichever side you use less often. If you are right-handed, it would be best to put the device on your left side.

In order for the pacemaker to work, a lead wire must be embedded in your heart. The lead will connect the device directly to your heart by sending electrical signals down it. These signals are what slow or speed up your heart rate depending on how fast or slow it is beating at that moment. Your doctor needs to set the programming so that this can happen and also check if there are any issues when you turn it on.

What Happens Afterward?

When a pacemaker is implanted, the patient must stay in the hospital for one or two nights. There might be some pain and swelling around the site of insertion, but it should go away after about a week.

People with pacemakers typically resume their regular routine within a few days of getting the device implanted. However, you will need to avoid heavy lifting and contact sports.

What Happens Afterward?

Talk to your doctor about how much you can do.

Your doctor will check your pacemaker once every 6 months. During the checkup, they will make sure:

  • The battery works
  • The wires are still in place
  • The pacemaker is keeping your heart in rhythm

Batteries generally need to be replaced every five to fifteen years, and surgery is needed to change them.

Stay away from devices with strong magnetic fields if you have a pacemaker. These devices can interfere with the accuracy of your device and some of them include:

  • Electrical generators
  • Cell phones and MP3 players
  • Microwave ovens
  • High-tension wires
  • Metal detectors

Other types of medically-related procedures can also have negative effects on someone with a pacemaker. If your doctor requests an MRI or shockwave therapy for kidney stones, be sure they know you have a pacemaker and what kind you have. That information can be sealed on a card to carry with you.

The national institutes of health recommend that you avoid heavy lifting or contact sports for at least a few days after getting the device implanted.

Talk to your doctor about how much you can do.

Your doctor will check your pacemaker once every six months during the next appointment, and they will make sure: that both leads are still in place, that the battery is working correctly,

What are the parts of a pacemaker/ICD?

A typical pacemaker or ICD has 3 main parts:

  • A heart rate regulator with a lithium battery. It sends electrical signals that regulate your heart’s beating patterns. Most defibrillators can also sense and receive signals from the heart itself.
  • A wire (lead) is an insulated, flexible wire that carries electrical signals to and from a pulse generator. One end of the lead is attached to the pulse generator; one or more leads then carry this signal inside the body to an electrode placed near the heart. For a biventricular pacemaker, two leads are positioned in both ventricles.
  • Electrodes–found on each lead–are used to carry electricity from the device case and into your heart.

The leadless pacemaker combines the pulse generator and the electrode as a single unit, but it is only used in certain cases.

What are the parts of a pacemaker/ICD?

Heart arrhythmias, such as pauses and irregular heartbeats are often corrected with a device implanted in the chest called a pacemaker.

The pacemaker boosts the pace of the heart to achieve a more normal rhythm when it falls below programmed levels.

  • Pacemakers are called “single-chamber” pacemakers if they pace either the right atrium or the right ventricle.
  • Dual-chamber pacemakers pace both the right atrium and right ventricle of the heart and require 2 leads.
  • A pacemaker that controls the right and left ventricles is called a “biventricular” pacemaker.

Heart Surgery

Heart Surgery can have an impact on your pacemaker.

There are two types of heart surgery: open-heart and minimally invasive (not including catheter procedures).

Open Heart Surgery is done through a large cut in the chest that leads to the left side of your heart. A surgeon can reach both the upper chambers, or atria, and a lower chamber called ventricles by going through this hole. They will also be able to see any blockages before they do anything else during an operation. Procedures like valve repairs, replacing blood vessels for patients with clogged arteries, taking out tumor tissue from around the heart’s valves – all these require opening up your chest cavity to work on your heart

Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT)

CRT is a medical procedure that helps patients with heart failure. It is a treatment for people who do not respond well to conventional treatments such as medications and lifestyle changes, which may include dietary adjustments or exercise.

Heart Disease

Heart Disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. It’s not always easy to know what is the causing of heart disease, but there are some things you can do to help lower your risk:

  • Be active – Take regular exercise like walking or swimming. Losing weight will also make a difference for those with Type II Diabetes
  • Maintain a healthy diet and limit consumption of red meat
  • Quit smoking cigarettes if you currently smoke
  • Avoid drinking excess alcohol which can be hard on your liver and increase triglycerides levels in your blood.
  • Defibrillators have been around since at least 1891 when they were used by French physician Paul Zoll “The Father of Defibrillation”.

Heart Disease

Covid 19 & Heart Disease

As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, AEDs could make the difference between life and death for a person with an underlying heart condition. Those with cardiac issues who are infected with coronavirus are gravely concerned.

Covid 19 & Heart Disease

Elderly people who have coronary heart disease, or are hypertensive, are more likely to contract coronavirus and develop severe symptoms. The Center for Disease Control lists these two groups plus elderly men as high-risk groups in this pandemic.

However, the CDC preliminary findings indicated that an abnormal heart rate had been present in 59% of those who died from coronavirus versus only 1% of survivors. Almost half (48%) of the Wuhan China patients transferred to intensive care units also reported having fast heart rates.

A defibrillator is a machine used to deliver electrical shocks which can restore a heartbeat in certain instances where it may have stopped or become too disorganized due to an abnormal process in the heart muscle cells or signals. A pacemaker is a surgically implanted device that delivers electrical impulses which regulate your heartbeat by creating contractions and reducing coronary blood flow when needed

People Also Asked

What’s the difference between a pacemaker and a defibrillator?

The difference between a pacemaker and a defibrillator is that a pacemaker regulates the heart’s rhythm or rate, while a defibrillator is used to try and restore a normal heartbeat.

Pacemaker vs Defibrillator

Although a defibrillator and pacemaker are similar they are actually not the same. Defibrillators are used to treat life-threatening rhythms that can cause sudden cardiac death, while pacemakers provide electrical impulses in order to regulate a heart rate that is too slow or irregular.

What heart conditions require a defibrillator?

If you have a dangerously fast heartbeat (ventricular tachycardia) or chaotic heart rhythm that keeps your heart from supplying oxygenated blood to the rest of your body (ventricular fibrillation), then you might need an ICD. One difference between ICDs and pacemakers is that the latter treat abnormal heart rhythms, whereas the former detects and stops them.

How painful is a defibrillator?

A defibrillator shock is painful if you are awake although typically the victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest is unconscious.

You might not know the difference between a defibrillator and a pacemaker, but it is important to understand which one would be used for your condition. Defibrillators are often used when someone has ventricular fibrillation or an irregular heart rhythm that needs to stop immediately because they can lead to cardiac arrest. Pacemakers are usually put in during open-heart surgery as part of corrective procedures due to congenital defects with the conduction system responsible for sending electrical impulses throughout the heart muscle. If you have any questions about these two devices feel free to reach out to us.

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